TORONTO — A hat trick by Jozy Altidore helped Toronto FC lift the Voyageurs Trophy for a seventh time Wednesday, winning the Canadian Championship final 7-4 on aggregate after a commanding 5-2 second-leg win over the Vancouver Whitecaps.
In a season where Toronto has been a shadow of its former self, the MLS champions turned back the clock. The TFC attack became more dangerous as the evening wore on, pinging the ball around effortlessly in overwhelming the Vancouver defence.
The Toronto players enjoyed the moment. There has been little to cheer about in a 6-12-5 league campaign.
Sebastian Giovinco contributed a goal and two assists and substitute Tosaint Ricketts added a goal as Toronto thumped the Whitecaps following a 2-2 first-leg tie last week at B.C. Place Stadium. Kei Kamara and Brek Shea scored late goals for Vancouver to make things interesting. TFC’s Jonathan Osorio was named tournament MVP.
Altidore’s goal spree helped the big man win his way back into TFC fans’ hearts after being sent off early for lashing out with his boot in a 3-2 league loss to New York City FC on the weekend.
In winning the Canadian Championship for a third straight year, TFC consigned Vancouver to a seventh runner-up finish. The Whitecaps have won once — in 2015 — since the tournament’s inception in 2008.
The Canadian Championship final has a history of being decided late, but there was little drama Wednesday. Toronto led 2-0 at the half and 4-0 after 53 minutes. Vancouver mounted a late rally before Ricketts padded the TFC lead.
The win was worth a US$50,000 team bonus and entry into the CONCACAF Champions League, the elite club competition covering North and Central America and the Caribbean.
Toronto lost the Champions League final in a penalty shootout to Chivas Guadalajara in April. Montreal also made it to the final in 2015, losing to Club America. Vancouver advanced as far as the semifinals in 2017.
For Toronto, it was a 13th victory in 14 two-legged series since 2016 in the Canadian Championship, CONCACAF Champions League and MLS playoffs.
Altidore capped a beautiful Toronto passing move in the 39th minute, beating goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic with a low shot from close range after taking a nifty back-flick from Marky Delgado that put him behind the defence. The goal came after a intricate tic-tac-toe passing sequence.
Giovinco made it 2-0 in the 44th, twisting his body for a diving header off an Osorio cross after some blue-collar work by Delgado in the buildup. It was Giovinco’s record sixth Canadian Championship goal — and a rare score using his head.
Altidore added another in the 49th minute, knocking in a laser-like cross from Giovinco. Vancouver had seven men in the penalty box at the time, none of whom were able to stop the goal.
Giovinco and Altidore combined off a corner with Altidore’s glancing header making it 4-0 in the 53rd.
Kamara pulled one back for Vancouver in the 63rd minute, beating goalkeeper Clint Irwin after being put behind the Toronto defence by Nicolas Mezquida. Shea tapped in Vancouver’s second goal in the 77th before Ricketts headed in a Michael Bradley free kick in the 80th minute, two minutes after entering the game, to ease the minds of the 14,994 on hand at BMO Field.
It was an entertaining first half, full of robust challenges if not clear-cut chances early on. Toronto had the better opportunities but failed to put them on target, with a Giovinco flick and Chris Mavinga header off the mark.
Whitecaps teenage star Alphonso Davies, who moved from one side to another, shot wide from distance in the 35th minute. Soon after, a deflected Jay Chapman shot caused havoc in front of the Vancouver goal before being hacked away.
But Toronto found its range late in the half and kept firing away.
The Whitecaps had been coy about the availability of Davies, who missed Vancouver’s weekend game in Portland due to a right hip flexor strain and left practice early Tuesday. But the 17-year-old midfielder, bound for Bayern Munich after the season, was in the starting lineup with manager Carl Robinson saying he was pronounced fit some 4 1/2 hours before kickoff.
Toronto playmaker Victor Vazquez was a late scratch with a sore knee after taking the warmup. He was replaced by Delgado with Toronto having to go a man down on the bench.
Injured but starting was Vancouver defender Doneil Henry, wearing a cast on a hand broken in the aftermath of the first leg. It was Henry’s 96th-minute own goal that knotted the final score in a game that saw Montreal reduced to 10 men when Brazilian midfielder Felipe was sent off in first-half stoppage time.
Henry’s hand injury was apparently self-inflicted.
The Whitecaps, who ended Portland’s 15-game unbeaten streak on the weekend, arrived unbeaten in five games (3-0-2) in all competitions. Toronto had been undefeated in six games (4-0-2) in all competitions prior to the NYCFC loss.
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press
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