They needed penalties, and it wasn’t without drama, but when Tristan Blackmon slotted his penalty into the back of the goal, the Vancouver Whitecaps became Canadian Champions for the first time since 2015, and for the second time in franchise history.
A Whitecaps Canadian Championship record 24,307 fans packed into BC Place for the match, and the fans were treated to an early goal by the home side in the 19th minute. From a corner kick, the ball was batted around a couple of times, before it settled on the foot of Ryan Gauld, who crossed it to the back post, where it was headed into the goal by Brian White, giving the ‘Caps the lead.
Vancouver took the lead into halftime, but in the second half, the game changed, and Toronto FC dominated the ball, leading to an overall possession of 72 percent in the game for The Reds. Once again, from a corner kick in the 75th minute, Toronto found an equalizer. Federico Bernardeschi played the corner short, and when he got the ball back, swung it beautifully to the back post, where it was headed towards goal by Lukas MacNaughton, beating the Whitecaps’ keeper.
With the game level and time running out, penalties looked like an inevitability. If not for a save by Toronto FC keeper Alex Bono, however, they wouldn’t have gotten there. That save had the potential to be the turning point, but after five minutes of added time, the Canadian Championship was going to be won on penalties, with the Voyageurs Cup being handed out to the winner.
The game reaching penalties felt like a compromise for both sides. Vancouver controlled the game in the first half and had plenty of chances to win the game in the second half, and for Toronto, dominating the ball the way they did left them wanting more. Either team could have won in the 90 minutes of action, but neither could do quite enough. Going into penalties, however, the Whitecaps were confident
S. 2 Ep. 21: Canada Doing What Canada Does – FC13 Podcast
“I was confident and I was also a little bit pissed, because I think we deserved to win,” said Whitecaps head coach Vanni Sartini.
When Toronto’s Jonathan Osorio put his attempt off the post in the third round, the advantage was firmly on the ‘Caps’ side. When Blackmon stepped up, he had a chance to win the game, and he made no mistake, putting the ball right down the middle and into the goal.
“I kind of thought it would end that way when I was fifth,” he said. “And it was on the plate for me to go at it. And luckily I tucked it in.”
For some, the Canadian Championship might be meaningless, but that isn’t the case for the Whitecaps. They are well behind both Toronto and CF Montreal for Voyageurs Cup wins, and in MLS, the ‘Caps have been underwhelming in 2022, but this win is something to celebrate. They have clinched a spot in CONCACAF Champions League next season, the final time the tournament will be run before it’s expanded.
“We said from Day one that the Canadian Championship was one of our important trophies,” said Sartini. “We didn’t do well in the previous years. And it means everything because we are a very good team.”
“So today, we will remind everyone that we are 100 percent a very good team. We are not the team who’s considered an elite killer. So winning a trophy for us is really important.”
“Any time you get a trophy, it’s awesome,” said Vancouver goal-scorer Brian White. “Toronto is a good team and we struggled in this tournament in years past. So it means a lot for the club, for the fans to bring this trophy home.”
Whitecaps’ midfielder Ryan Raposo was named the match’s Best Young Canadian of the Game, despite being subbed out in the 82nd minute.
“The guys just have so much grit. They’re all fighters,” said Raposo “We’re not a team full of individuals — we’re a team, we work together toward a common goal, and that’s what happens — you win trophies.”
Both Toronto and Vancouver will be back in MLS action this weekend. Toronto will face New England Revolution on Saturday away from home, while the Whitecaps play away to Nashville SC.
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