TFC bests Fury, punches ticket to Canadian Championship final


Toronto FC's Tsubasa Endoh (right) gets in front of Ottawa Fury's Andrae Campbell to score his team's second goal during first half Canadian Championship semifinal second leg action in Toronto on Wednesday, May 31, 2017. (Chris Young/CP)

• Canadian Championship – Ottawa Fury 0, Toronto FC 4 (Edward OG 41’, Endoh 42’, Delgado 80’, Giovinco 85’)
• TFC overturned 1-goal deficit from 1st leg to advance to final
• Giovinco scored, tallied assist in 1st appearance since May 13

TORONTO – The Ottawa Fury put forth a valiant effort, but they weren’t going to beat Major League Soccer’s best team two weeks in a row. That just wasn’t going to happen – not on Toronto FC’s watch.

TFC bested the Fury 4-0 on an own-goal, and tallies from Tsubasa Endoh and Marky Delgado in the second leg of their Canadian Championship semifinal on Wednesday night before 15,175 fans at BMO Field. Star striker Sebastian Giovinco also scored and set up a goal for Toronto, coming off the bench to start the second half. The Italian had been sidelined for the previous three weeks with a quad strain.

With the victory, Toronto overturned a 2-1 loss to Ottawa, which plays in the second-tier United Soccer League, in last week’s opening leg in the nation’s capital. The Reds won this two-game series 5-2 on aggregate, and advanced to the final where they’ll look to repeat as Canadian champions by beating the Montreal Impact. Montreal defeated the Vancouver Whitecaps in the other semifinal.

Don’t let the score line fool you because this was a lot closer than that. The Fury played the Reds very close on the night, and but for a lack of finishing they could have enjoyed the lead going into halftime. They defended brilliantly before finally being breached late in the half. Full credit must be given to Ottawa for making it incredibly uncomfortable for Toronto.

“We gave everything. I couldn’t be more proud of our guys. [TFC] is a top team and this was a big ask… This was like a university lesson for us as an organization, playing against arguably the best team in MLS,” Ottawa coach Paul Dalglish told reporters in the post-match press conference.

Still, the Englishman clearly felt his team didn’t get proper recognition for winning last week’s opening leg in Ottawa, and he let the assembled media know about it.

“[Toronto has] four or five players that earn more than our whole team and staff combined. Just to put things in perspective, we don’t have one player on our team earning the MLS [minimum salary of $53,000 US]. Not one. We didn’t get the credit we deserved after the first game. Everyone was saying TFC played a weakened [starting line-up],” Dalglish said.

“This was bigger than David vs. Goliath, and I want to make sure these guys get the credit they deserve for how hard they worked to represent the Ottawa Fury and themselves with pride.”

Toronto coach Greg Vanney was in a very complimentary mood towards the Ottawa after the game.

“They’re a good team. They are athletic, they’re big, they work very hard. They know what they’re good at, and they knew what they were coming in to try to do. They put up a good fight for a large stretch of it, and they made it difficult on us. … We wish them the best through their USL season,” Vanney offered.

TFC was missing captain Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore (away on U.S. national team duty), and Canadian midfielder Raheem Edwards (suspended).

Vanney made several lineup changes from last week, most notably starting Spanish midfielder Victor Vazquez in place of Armando Cooper, and Tosaint Ricketts instead of fellow Canadian Jay Chapman. He also went with a completely new defence in Chris Mavinga, Drew Moor and Eriq Zavaleta.

Ottawa tried to protect its aggregate lead right from the opening kickoff. Dalglish set his team up in a 4-3-3 formation with three defensive midfielders in front of the defence. The Fury kept their shape and remained defensively disciplined as they frustrated the anxious hosts for the majority of the opening half.

While TFC couldn’t register a shot on target, the Fury came close to scoring on three occasions, with goalkeeper Clint Irwin having to make a save in close on Ryan Williams, and a pair of stops on Sito Seoane. Toronto appeared to suffer a setback when Ricketts was subbed out at the half-hour mark with a hamstring injury, and was replaced by Steven Beitashour.

Toronto finally broke through just before halftime. Jordan Hamilton did a great job of holding up the ball while hounded by two Fury players, and played a pass for Endoh that released the Japanese speedster on goal. Endoh whipped a low ball across the six-yard box that Ottawa’s Eddie Edward tipped into his net while under pressure from TFC’s Justin Morrow.

Hamilton was also involved in Toronto’s second goal a minute later. The young Canadian started the play down the left flank, passing off to Vazquez, who made a quick move and then floated a perfect cross into the box for Endoh to majestically head home.

TFC could smell blood in the water, and brought on Giovinco at the expense of Hamilton. The Italian looked very lively up front, showing no signs of rust stemming from his injury layoff.

Endoh nearly bagged another goal after the restart, scuffing his shot off the crossbar following some great interplay between Morrow and Beitashour.

Toronto put the game away when Delgado scored on a tap-in as he was left unmarked in the middle of the box following a buildup sequence orchestrated by Giovinco and Morrow.

Giovinco added a fourth goal late in the game, with Vazquez collecting his second assist, to compound Ottawa’s misery.

NOTES: Montreal hosts Toronto in the first leg of the final on June 21, with the return match scheduled for BMO Field on June 27… If Toronto wins the final, it automatically qualifies for the 2017-18 CONCACAF Champions League. If Montreal wins, TFC would host the Impact on Aug. 9 in a one-game playoff for the right to advance to the Champions League… TFC is back in MLS action on Saturday when they visit the New England Revolution.

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