Canadian Championship yields disappointment, delight

Action from the Amway Canadian Championship final, second-leg match between the host Vancouver Whitecaps (white jersey) and Toronto FC on June 29, 2016. (Photo courtesy of Canada Soccer)


VANCOUVER, Canada -- The Vancouver Whitecaps were just seconds away from a third-straight berth in the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League, but Toronto FC midfielder Will Johnson had other ideas.

In what has become an increasingly riveting competition, Johnson scored in stoppage time to give Toronto its first Amway Canadian Championship title since 2012 and a spot in the 2017/18 SCCL.

“To do it that way is amazing,” said Toronto FC midfielder Jonathan Osorio. “If we could have scripted it, we would not do it that way. We would have ended it much earlier, but that just shows the heart and amount of belief that we have that any point we can win a game.”

Of course, Toronto didn’t win the second leg at BC Place in Vancouver, losing 2-1. It did, however, end up lifting the trophy on the away-goals rule, when after Whitecaps goalkeeper David Ousted collided with defender Kendall Waston, allowing Johnson to fire into an open net.

Vancouver had seemingly turned the championship in its favor in the second half. It lost the first leg 1-0 in Toronto, but levelled the aggregate score two minutes into the second half through Nicolas Mezquida’s header and then Tim Parker gave them a two-goal lead in the game and a one-goal lead on aggregate in the 68th minute.

“It’s a crushing final seconds of that match but I’m just kind of speechless right now,” said Parker, who has one career SCCL goal. “I don’t know how to feel right now.”

Toronto was missing star players Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley, while goalkeeper Clint Irwin was also out through injury, but they’ll be joining in the brief celebrations with their teammates, who are back in MLS action on Saturday at home against the Seattle Sounders.

Toronto last won the Canadian Championship in 2012, which was its fourth title in as many years. It crafted a memorable run to the 2011/12 SCCL semifinals and will be looking for more international success.

“I was happy for the players in the end,” said Toronto head coach Greg Vanney. “They stuck it out. They’ve really competed through this event all the way to the final whistle.”