Never leave until the final whistle. That was how I was brought up. Sometimes though you wish you hadn’t listened to that advice.
Vancouver Whitecaps knew that an away goal for Toronto would pretty much end their dreams of retaining the Voyageurs Cup. They managed to hold out for 94 minutes, but it proved a few seconds too much and Will Johnson drilled home a dramatic stoppage time aggregate winner for Toronto, silencing the BC Place crowd.
The ‘Caps had played an almost perfect game, sounding out their opponents in the first half before a storming display in the second saw them go 2-0 up on the night thanks to a Nicolas Mezquida header and a great finish from Tim Parker.
Ahead on aggregate by a goal, it was all looking so rosy for Vancouver before their old Cascadian nemesis stuck, breaking Whitecaps hearts.
It was a cagey start, with neither team committing much for fear of making what could be a costly mistake and giving up an early goal that would change the whole dynamic of the tie.
Sebastian Giovinco had the first real chance, curling an effort wide of the left post in the 14th minute.
The closest the ‘Caps came was a Kekuta Manneh effort that he fired narrowly over around ten minutes later.
Despite the inexperienced Alex Bono in goal for Toronto, Vancouver didn’t commit to peppering the ‘keeper with shots, and he was having an easy time of it.
Christian Bolanos could keep the ball down when he tried to get on the end of a Manneh cross, and apart from a wild Pedro Morales free kick, Toronto’s lead was not looking in any danger.
That nearly changed with six seconds of the half remaining when Matias Laba his a fierce one from the edge of the box that a sprawling Bono parried.
With the teams heading in at the half scoreless, Vancouver had to consider when the roll the dice and go more attacking. Right away as it turned out, with a quad strain forcing Russell Teibert out to be replaced by Mezquida.
The Uruguayan had an immediate impact, get his head on a Jordan Harvey cross and powering his header over Bono and into the TFC net, giving Vancouver the lead on the night and tying it up on aggregate.
Game very much now on.
The goal gave Vancouver a fresh spring in their step and they turned up the pressure on Toronto.
Jacobson came close to sliding in on a cross at the back post, but as the ‘Caps pushed forward, TFC were finding more room and Mo Babouli forced David Ousted to tip the ball over his bar with a long range screamer on the hour mark.
That chance aside, Vancouver were looking the more likely to score and they went ahead for the first time in the tie in the 67th minute.
The ‘Caps kept the pressure on from a corner and Laba looped a hopeful ball into the box that fell perfectly to Parker, who showed great control to get past Justin Morrow and bury it past Bono into the bottom left corner.
It’s both great and worrying in equal measure that all of our centre backs seem to show better ball control in the opposition’s box than Erik Hurtado!
That goal finally lit a fire under Toronto and the game started to become a lot more open, and tense!
Vancouver needed a third to have some breathing space. Toronto needed an away goal to salvage their Cup hopes.
The ‘Caps saw three shots blocked in quick succession in the 81st minute, from Manneh, Bolanos and Hurtado, as they looked to kill things off, before another quick break saw Bono save another one from Bolanos.
Vancouver kept pushing as the minutes ticked by, seemingly eager to grab the killer third as opposed to trying to kill the game off defensively. It nearly paid off when substitute Blas Perez crashed one off the left post in stoppage time, and Alphonso Davies was unable to get on to the rebound.
As the game entered the final few seconds, Vancouver were caught with three men upfield as Toronto transitioned quickly. As the ball was whipped into the box for one last effort, Ousted came out and looked certain to collect and end the game, but the Dane collided with Kendall Waston who was also going for the ball and the spill feel to Johnson who gleefully fired a thunderbolt high into the net for a dramatic Championship winner.
A heartbreaking way to end the game and lose the Cup. It’s unlikely many, if any, of these ‘Caps players will suffer a worse feeling in their footballing careers. But it’s how they respond to it now that’s important. They could have their confidence knocked, do a little bit too much soul searching and go into a summer funk, or they can dust themselves down, use it as motivation to feel better times again and go on a little bit of a run.
With a trip to LA Galaxy next up on Monday, it’s not going to be made easy for them.
FINAL SCORE: Vancouver Whitecaps 2 – 1 Toronto FC (2-2 on aggregate – Toronto win on away goals)
VANCOUVER: David Ousted; Tim Parker, Andrew Jacobson, Kendall Waston, Jordan Harvey; Matias Laba, Russell Teibert (Nicolas Mezquida 46), Christian Bolanos, Pedro Morales, Kekuta Manneh (Alphonso Davies 70); Erik Hurtado (Blas Perez 83) [Subs Not Used: Paolo Tornaghi, Jordan Smith, Pa Modou Kah, Cristian Techera]
TORONTO: Alex Bono; Nick Hagglund, Eriq Zavaleta, Drew Moor, Justin Morrow; Marco Delgado, Will Johnson, Benoit Cheyrou (Tsubasa Endoh 74), Jonathan Osorio (Raheem Edwards 86); Sebastian Giovinco, Mo Babouli (Jordan Hamilton 73) [Subs Not Used: Quillan Roberts, Josh Williams, Mark Bloom, Jay Chapman]
On whether it was pushing too far forward at the end:
“We didn’t play very well in the first half, but in the second half we were excellent. We scored our two goals, we created a number of chances, we missed a number of chances, and we concede a bad goal in the 94th minute. Football’s a cruel game sometimes, and it certainly was today.”
On a cautious first half and being tempted to go full out attack:
“Listen, we knew that there’s 90 minutes to play and we wanted to still be in the game after 45. They’ve got the best player in the league, so we needed to make sure we keep them quiet and we did for the majority of the game. In the second half we were always going to push, we did push, we got our chances and we got our goals. But as I said, it’s a cruel game.”
On what was going through his mind in the dying seconds:
“I’m absolutely gutted for the guys, because they gave me and the club and the organization absolutely everything. And we deserved to win, but we didn’t win. So I could talk to you about how well they played and how proud I am of them, but as I said football’s a cruel game and it was certainly cruel tonight for the guys.”
On what cost the team, missed chances or the final play:
“We had three clear cut chances, one-on-one chances, we didn’t score. The last punt from Toronto is a straight ball. My centre back usually heads it, my goalkeeper catches it. They both tangle and their guy scores a goal. Credit to him, credit to them for getting in. I’d like to congratulate them. Obviously it’s disappointing for me and my club.”
On if the match would have been different if Mezquida started:
“If you’d have asked me before the game if we were 2-0 up going into the 94th minute, I would have took it, whoever I played. I could have played eleven goalkeepers. The guys did exactly as I asked, but one mistake has cost us. So it doesn’t matter about personnel or tactics, it’s just a mistake has cost us and we’ve got to deal with it.”
On risk of an emotional letdown:
“Listen, if you’re not disappointed when you lose, there’s a problem. If you’re not disappointed when you lose like this, there’s a problem. And it hurts more when you lose like this, because we won the trophy last year and we probably should have won it again this year but should’ve, we could have, would’ve, all in different words – we haven’t. As I said, congratulations to Toronto, they win the trophy this year. We have to deal with it. We’ll have to show more character, we’ll have to bounce back. Disappointing we win the game today and we all go away disappointed. As I said, that’s football.”
On losing the cup:
“That’s probably the worst way I’ve ever lost a game in my entire career, starting from when I was maybe six-years-old. Devastated man, really. I can’t really put it into any other words than that. It’s definitely crushing.”
On how the team moves forward:
“There’s two ways to go. We’ve got a tough game on Monday, fourth of July in LA. We’ve got to pick our heads up. It’s going to hurt, maybe tonight, but coming in tomorrow we’ve got to pick our heads up and use this as motivation to push on the rest of the season.”
On what head coach Carl Robinson said after the match:
“It’s a tough one. Just what I said, I’ll say it again. It was a tough loss. There’s no two ways of looking at it. We had it well within our grasp. Things like that have kind of summed up our season so far. So we just need to clean it up. Honestly, this team can go so far. We can go to MLS Cup, we just need to clean up those. And I can keep saying this every interview, those key mistakes in very important moments in the game. And that was a tough one. Like I said, we have to use this as motivation. We’re a good team. I think no one in that locker room is thinking that we’re a bad team and we’re going to dwell on it. Honestly it hurts really bad right now, but we know we can play. We played a very good team in Toronto, and we lost on away goals. I think this is the second time, I think Montreal was the other.”
Thoughts on the result:
“Devastating. Obviously, not what we wanted to happen. I’ll come out and say it, I cost us that one, I cost us the championship. That’s the thing, its heart wrenching right now. Do I have to come out on that one? Definitely I do. If you want a keeper that is going to stay on his line and not take responsibility, I’m not your guy. That’s my ball. Should I have punched it? Maybe, but I would make that decision again. It’s my ball, if I hold it it’s over. But that’s the job, some days that happens and one mistake can be the difference.”
On what was said after the match:
“I apologized to the guys. Like I said, I cost us them the championship, and that’s the job, unfortunately. It’s a fine line between success and failure and today you saw how fine it is for a goalkeeper.”
Opening Statement from coach:
“I first off want to thank the Canadian Soccer Association and Amway for what was a wonderful event and a phenomenal opponent in Vancouver. I think they are a first class organization and again, it’s two teams that just battled all the way to the wire and we were fortunate to make a big play in the end that gave us the result. But they played a great game and it could be argued that they easily could have come away with this trophy. Tribute to our guys who stuck in there until the end and competed for every last ball and made the one play at the end that made the difference. Congratulations to them for getting to this point.”
On his game plan for the match this evening:
“Well, we wanted to play for the goal, for the first goal. But we also wanted to not go into a hornet’s nest, if you will, in terms of our possession and play into their pressure and get caught in transition moments, which I think is a big strength of theirs. It was important for us to recognize when the game shifted, from when they were sitting back and waiting to play us on the counter, to recognizing when they increased the amount of pressure they were putting on our midfield and increased the pressure they put on our backs. To be fair, we didn’t really calculate that well in terms of our group on the field recognizing that now pressure’s coming, we need to adjust and start to play forward quicker and we need to play behind them, because their lines were stepping faster. But all along, the ambition was to play forward, look to play for the first goal. We’re not here to sit in our box and defend. Having said that, we found ourselves in that position a little bit, just because we were in possession a lot, but not necessarily going forward enough.”
On whether he was disappointed in his teams’ performance prior to their goal:
“I think part of it is a mindset and awareness, and recognition. Again, I thought too much through the game we fell back into a habit with our team. Sometimes we win the ball, secure it playing backwards and square, instead of winning the ball and looking to play forward and breaking lines immediately. By doing so, what ends up happening is they get numbers behind the ball, they get men around Seba [Sebastian Giovinco], lots of numbers around Seba. It becomes difficult for him to find time and space. Then we end up passing the ball around and not getting to real dangerous moments. It wasn’t until the end when we started becoming a little more direct, we started pushing more numbers higher, that we started really creating some things. In terms of disappointing, it is what it is. These finals are always awkward when they are 180 minutes long because you’re always sort of managing, in some ways, the moment, and recognizing what the scenario is in that moment. From a game plan standpoint, we were looking for and talking about, and striving to score the first goal and to try and give ourselves the best possible cushion. It didn’t happen and it is what it is, I guess.”
On whether he was surprised Vancouver kept pushing and didn’t try and kill game off at the end:
“I was a little surprised in a few of their transitions. I don’t think they sent a lot of numbers forward necessarily on those attacks. I was surprised when we were able to slip out of the first challenge and then we were able to face forward and really get at their backline… So in some ways I still felt we had a chance because of that.”
Thoughts on the match:
“It’s why I came here, to win a trophy, so I’m very glad to win that this year with our teammates, and this team, for the fans, for the club. It’s very important to have a winner’s spirit, and by winning that kind of trophy we can build a winning culture as well. In this club, it’s important.”
On nerves at the end of the match with time winding down:
“You know, it’s a final, we won at the last second. Three days ago, we lost the game at the last second of the ten minutes of additional time, so this is soccer, this is emotions and we’re glad to be on the good side tonight.”
On Alex Bono’s goalkeeping:
“Yes, I think he did great tonight. We trusted in him, he’s a big part of the team and a big part of the good result tonight.”
Thoughts on the atmosphere at BC Place:
“I love this stadium, it’s very nice. Obviously we wanted to play in front of our fans, but [there were] some here and we are glad to share this moment with them.”
Thoughts on his goal:
“Just take a chance, when the ball was in the air I had a good feeling that it might bounce, something was going to happen. I just wanted a look and just put my foot through, try to connect well with it and obviously it happened in a great moment for us and for our club.”
On the feelings on the field for TFC at the end of the match:
“It was desperation, right? I mean, every time you dodge a bullet down here, you think ‘yeah, maybe we’ll get a chance’, and we did and fortunately it went in and it worked out and I’m not sure you can put it into words and describe it unless you were here and felt it.”
Thoughts on if the team was panicking at the end of the match:
“No, no panic. I mean we’re down 2-0, we knew if we scored a goal we won, and that was the mindset so we started throwing guys up front. Panic is not the word; desperation, right? I mean you’ve got five minutes left in a championship where the other team wins, we were desperate so we threw a bunch of guys forward and good things happen.”
Update on his leg after an on-pitch collision:
“It’s okay. I’m not sure right now, it hurts.”
Thoughts on what it means to win the Voyageurs Cup:
“Everything, we put everything into it. We played our strongest line-up every single game that we had, we went for it. We travelled here from Orlando, our club got us a charter from Orlando to Vancouver, we put a lot of money into it. We stayed at the nicest hotels, we got the best meals, and it paid off.”
Thoughts on being a Canadian and winning the Voyageurs Cup:
“It’s awesome. Amazing. I’ve never won the U.S. Open Cup, so it’s fitting I come to Canada first year and get my hands on this trophy. I’m excited about that and I hope we’re celebrating another Canadian achievement in September.”
On how this match affects the Whitecaps FC/ TFC rivalry:
“I don’t know. Obviously it kind of dies down because we only play once a year, which is disappointing, but it probably adds another level to it for sure. Vancouver’s a great team, and for us to come in here and get the result that we needed is no small feat. We’re proud of that, but it’ll add fuel to the fire, I think. The first game in the league, 4-3, and then obviously the first leg was a little tamer, then this one felt like it was a real rivalry game today. So I think that’s good for the sport. I hope the 20,000 here appreciate the level of competition on the field. Obviously, they will be disappointed with the result, but this was a good Canadian soccer match between two good teams, and there was a lot of good Canadian players on the field too, so proud to be a part of it.”
Thoughts on Alex Bono:
“Great, great. Made the saves. All we ask for him, young goalie, is make the saves that you should make and keep us in the game. I think he did more than that, to be fair to him, so credit to him. Good young player; two games into his career, now he’s won a trophy.”