Two-time champs Toronto FC win 3:0 in Edmonton

Maicon Santos made amends for missed chances scoring twice to lead Toronto FC past a shorthanded FC Edmonton 3-0 Wednesday in the first leg of their Nutrilite Canadian Championship semifinal series.

Maicon Santos made amends for missed chances scoring twice to lead Toronto FC past a shorthanded FC Edmonton 3-0 Wednesday in the first leg of their Nutrilite Canadian Championship semifinal series.

After muffing on two opportunities, Santos scored once in each half to turn a close game into an easy TFC victory and a commanding lead for the Major League Soccer club and defending NCC champion.

“The team did well, we played good,” Santos told Rogers Sportsnet after the game. “We played good as a team, it was a good result for us.”

Striker Alan Gordon added the other goal to deny the North American Soccer League expansion side any chance of a comeback in their first home game in any competition.

All three goals came after referee Paul Ward ejected Edmonton midfielder Shaun Saiko in the 23rd minute for a hard tackle.

With the win, Toronto is up 3-0 in the two-game total-goal series heading back home to BMO Field for the second leg on May 4. The series winner will face either Vancouver Whitecaps FC of MLS or the NASL’s L’Impact de Montreal for Canada’s lone place in the CONCACAF Champions League.

“It’s a good team, it’s a difficult place to play against them,” said Santos about Edmonton. “They don’t give us a lot of space, but we did well, we keep in shape, we keep working hard every minute.”

On a night when MLS’s Real Salt Lake and Mexico Primera Division club Monterrey contested the championship of the 2010-2011 CONCACAF Champions League, the two clubs played an entertaining game to start Canadian qualifying for the 2011-2012 tournament.

Fielding nine Canadians in its starting XI, Edmonton looked to carry the momentum of a 2-1 record in its first three matches – all road games – against goal-starved TFC, which rested Canadian international Julian de Guzman and striker Javier Martina.

Both teams held possession early, with each coming close to opening the scoring.

In the 3rd minute, Gordon took a centring pass, but his shot sailed over the goal. Minutes later, Santos sent a poor free kick from 30 yards well over the goal.

Chris Lemire had Edmonton’s best chance of the half in the 13th minute when he sent a left-footed free kick from almost 40 yards out into the side of the TFC goal.

Toronto’s best chance of the first half came in the 21st minute when Oscar Cordon nearly redirected Richard Eckersely’s low cross at the edge of the goal crease.

Two minutes later, Cordon factored into the game’s turning point when he drew a red card on Edmonton midfielder Shaun Saiko for a questionable challenge.

Despite absorbing pressure after the ejection, the Reds capitalized on a defensive miscue with Santos the beneficiary in the 35th minute.

After shanking a Mikael Yourassowsky set-up two minutes earlier, the Brazilian took a Joao Plata pass at the edge of the crease and fired a low shot by goalkeeper Reinn Baart to give TFC the lead.

That goal sparked Edmonton, which came back with three good chances before the end of the half, yet couldn’t get the equalizer.

In the 33rd minute, Toronto goalkeeper Stefan Frei stopped a Kyle Yamada header off a Kyle Porter cross. A minute later, Porter nearly scored himself driving in on goal and cutting inside only to send a shot just wide of the right post. Six minutes later, Conrad Smith eluded TFC defender Ty Harden, but sent a left-footed drive wide of the goal.

Gordon made Edmonton pay for its lack of execution giving TFC a 2-0 lead two minutes into the second half when he converted defender Alex Suprenant’s poor clearance off Cordon’s shot inside the penalty area.

“It’s pretty easy to play with him (Gordon) because he’s a target man to have up there and the guys that come from behind it’s very good for us to play,” said Santos.

Santos then put the game away in the 61st minute on another Edmonton miscue. Taking a mis-kick on the goal kick, he came in alone on Baart and slotted a low shot into the bottom right corner of the goal.

With Edmonton a man down and tiring, TFC cruised for much of the second half. Smith almost got one back for Edmonton late, but his shot off a Porter feed sailed over the goal.

FC Edmonton was making its debut in the NCC adding a fourth team to the four-year-old tournament. With an even number of clubs, the Canadian Soccer Association shifted from a round-robin group format to two semifinal series with the winners advancing to a two-leg final.

Toronto FC’s starting XI featured Stefan Frei in goal, defenders Danleigh Borman, Ty Harden, Dicoy Williams, Richard Eckersley and Mikael Yourassowsky, midfielders Tony Tchani, Oscar Cordon and Maicon Santos and strikers Alan Gordon and Joao Plata.

FC Edmonton’s starters included goalkeeper Reinn Baart, defenders Alex Suprenant, Paul Hamilton, Dominic Oppong and Antonio Rago, midfielders Shaun Saiko, Kyle Yamada, Chris Kooy and Chris Lemire and forwards Conrad Smith and Kyle Porter. is the new home for official Canada Soccer apparel and fanwear, including customized National Team jerseys

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