Toronto FC advances to Championship final

Toronto FC took a step closer to repeating its Nutrilite Canadian Championship riding Alan Gordon’s first-half strike to a 1:0 win Wednesday 4 May over FC Edmonton in the semi-final series.

Toronto FC took a step closer to repeating its Nutrilite Canadian Championship riding Alan Gordon’s first-half strike to a 1:0 win Wednesday 4 May over FC Edmonton in the semi-final series.

Gordon’s second goal of the Championship helped Toronto complete a 4-0 aggregate win over the North American Soccer League expansion franchise and put itself within one step of a third consecutive berth in the CONCACAF Champions League.

“We had a lot of opportunities and scored only once, but it was a good result,” said Toronto FC head coach Aron Winter.

The Major League Soccer club will face the winner of the other semi-final series between Vancouver Whitecaps FC and Impact Montréal. Vancouver takes a 1-0 lead into the second leg later Wednesday night after its win away at Montréal last Wednesday.

Coming off a bad loss last Saturday in league play at Seattle, Toronto FC started strong before 17,937 at BMO Field led by the play of Gordon and Joao Plata up front and the runs of Danleigh Borman on the left flank.

In the seventh minute, Gordon’s header off a Boreman cross went wide of the goal. Nine minutes later, another Boreman cross found Jacob Peterson, but the midfielder flubbed the one-time shot.

Edmonton, playing in its first Nutrilite Canadian Championship, had little response to the tandem threat of Plata and Gordon. Though Plata failed to score on his chance in the 19th minute, he found Gordon, who converted two minutes later to give Toronto the only goal they would need.

Midfielder Tony Tchani drove up the middle and fed the ball to Plata, who sent a crossing pass to Gordon on the right side behind the defense. The former Chivas USA striker collected the pass and drove it by Edmonton goalkeeper Lance Parker.

Gordon later left the game in the 65th minute with a minor injury, replaced by Maicon Santos, who scored twice in the first leg on 27 April.

Plata was nearly rewarded for his strong performance in the 77th minute. The rookie picked up a loose ball in the penalty area and sent a low shot only to be turned aside by the hand of a diving Parker.

“Plata played well,” said Winter. “It’s a pity that he didn’t score, he had some opportunities, it would have been nice for the crowd, the fans. He’s doing well.”

Neither team generated much offence, though Edmonton’s best chance to draw even came in the 51st minute when Conrad Smith’s drive just sailed by the Toronto goal.

“We’re not that good now, but we have young players and if you see the last year we were amateurs,” said FC Edmonton coach Harvey Sinkgraven. “If you see in one year what you can develop I think the future of our team is pretty good even when you think the last game, our home opener, we played 70 minutes with 10 men, I think that’s good.”

Toronto FC’s starting XI featured Stefan Frei (in goal), Richard Eckersley, Ty Harden, Adrian Cann, Danleigh Borman, Julian de Guzman, Tony Tchani, Mikael Yourassowsky, Jacob Peterson, Alan Gordon and Joao Plata.

In the second half, Winter’s three changes were Gordon off for Maicon Santos (65th minute) and both de Guzman and Tchani off for Matt Gold and Nick Soolsma (72’).

FC Edmonton’s starting XI featured Lancer Parker (in goal), Kyle Yamada, Niko Saler, Paul Hamilton, Dominic Oppong, Daniel Antoniuk, Antonio Rago, Sam Lam, Chris Kooy, Kyle Porter and Conrad Smith.

In the second half, Sinkgraven’s three substitutions were Smith off for Paul Craig (62’), Oppong off for Kwesele (73’) and Antoniuk off for Shawn Chin (85’).

The final series of the 2011 Nutrilite Canadian Championship takes place 18 and 25 May.

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