VANCOUVER — The Vancouver Whitecaps thought they had their hands on the Voyageurs Cup. Then Toronto FC ripped it out of their fingers.
Toronto midfielder Will Johnson scored late in extra time on Wednesday night, allowing the Reds to claim a 2-2 draw with Vancouver in the two-game, aggregate-goal Amway Canadian Championship. Toronto was awarded the Cup due to its away goal.
"We put everything into it," said Johnson, a Canadian international. "We played our strongest lineup every single game. We went for it."
The Whitecaps led 2-0 on goals by defender Tim Parker, in the 68th minute, and midfielder Nicolas Mezquida, in the 47th minute. With time ticking off the clock, the crowd of 19,376 at BC Place Stadium was on its feet convinced the Whitecaps would defend the title they won last year.
Elation quickly turned into disbelief when Toronto forward Tsubasa Endoh sent a ball into the box. Vancouver goalkeeper David Ousted went to handle the ball but collided with defender Kendall Waston. The ball was jarred loose and rolled to Johnson, who fired it into the net.
"You just take a chance," Johnson said about the goal. "When the ball was in the air I had a good feeling it might bounce, something is going to happen.
"I just wanted a look. I just put my foot through it, tried to connect well. Obviously it happened at a great moment for us and our club."
The winning goal came just moments after Toronto goalkeeper Alex Bono had made a couple big saves. Johnson said Toronto managed to remain calm and focused on the task.
"No panic," he said. "We knew if we scored a goal we won. That was the mindset.
"We started throwing guys up front. You have five minutes left in a championship or the other team wins. We threw a bunch of guys forward and good things happened."
While the Toronto players celebrated on the field the stunned Whitecaps watched. Several were in tears.
Ousted shouldered the blame for the loss.
"I cost us that one," he said. "I cost us the championship. It’s heart-wrenching.
"That was my ball. Should I punch it? Maybe. I would make that decision again. If I hold it, it’s over. That’s the job. Someday that happens and one mistake can be the difference."
It’s the fifth time since 2008 Toronto has won the Voyageurs Cup, more than any other Canadian team. It’s the sixth time Vancouver has been a runner-up, also more than any other team.
"I’m disappointed," said Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson. "I’m absolutely gutted for the guys, because they gave me and the club and the organization absolutely everything.
"We deserved to win, but we didn’t win."
Toronto coach Greg Vanney said his team wanted to score the first goal but also didn’t want to get caught on a counter attack.
"It’s a huge swing emotionally," he said about the game’s final moments.
"I was happy for the players because they really competed in this event. We were fortunate enough to make a big play at the end."
Toronto opened the final with a 1-0 win at BMO Field on June 21. Forward Sebastian Giovinco scored the goal in the 43rd minute.
The Whitecaps advanced to the final with a 3-2 aggregate victory over the Ottawa Fury. The Whitecaps lost the opening game 2-0 in Ottawa but demolished the Fury at home at week later.
Toronto opened their semifinal series against Montreal with a 4-2 home victory, then settled for a 0-0 draw on the road.
Toronto played without goalkeeper Clint Irwin, who will be out six weeks with a quadriceps strain suffered last weekend.
Captain Benoit Cheyrou praised the 22-year-old Bono, who made four saves in his first professional start.
"He was great," said Cheyrou. "We trusted in him.
"He’s a big part of the team and a big part of the good result tonight."
NOTES: Russell Teibert, who was playing in his 17th Canadian championship game, more than any other player, left at halftime with a right quad strain. â€¦ Vancouver and Toronto have met twice before in the Canadian championship final, with the Reds winning in 2011 and 2012. â€¦ Backup goalkeeper Paolo Tornaghi had played in both legs of Vancouver’s semifinal victory over Ottawa. â€¦ Whitecaps coach Robinson played three seasons in Toronto.