Toronto FC cruises past Ottawa Fury, returns to Canadian Championship final


Toronto FC's Ayo Akinola, second left, celebrates his goal with teammates Ryan Telfer, left, Nick Hagglund, second right, and Liam Fraser, right, against Ottawa Fury FC during the first half of Canadian Championship soccer action in Toronto, Wednesday July 25, 2018. (Mark Blinch/CP)

• Ottawa Fury 0, Toronto FC 3 (Akinola 36’, Hamilton 76’, Osorio 84’)
• TFC advances to Canadian Championship final
• Rookie Akinola scores his 1st goal for Toronto

TORONTO – The reigning MLS Cup holders moved one step closer to their goal of repeating as champions of Canada on Wednesday night.

Toronto FC ran roughshod in earning a 3-0 win over the Ottawa Fury in the second leg of their Canadian Championship semifinal before 18, 795 fans at BMO Field. TFC took the aggregate series 4-0 after winning on the road last week against the Fury, who compete in the second-tier United Soccer League.

In a lineup featuring a mix of starters and bench players, it was 18-year-old rookie Ayo Akinola, and Canadians Jonathan Osorio and Jordan Hamilton who scored for the Reds. The Fury offered little in attack, and didn’t even register a single shot on net.

Toronto advances to the two-match final of the Canadian Championship, which is scheduled for Aug. 8 and 15. TFC will host the decisive second leg, and will play the Vancouver Whitecaps.

In addition to hoisting the Voyageurs Cup, the tournament winner earns an automatic berth as Canada’s lone representative in the CONCACAF Champions League. After losing in this season’s CONCACAF final back in April, Toronto is anxious to return to the competition and rub shoulders with the best teams from across North and Central America.

“The Canadian Championship is an important one for us because it is the title of [best team in] Canada, and that’s an important thing for us. Second, it’s our ticket into the Champions League, which is a big deal for our club,” Toronto coach Greg Vanney said.

“Having gone through this last Champions League, it’s something now that we are striving to be in every year, to try to be the first team from MLS to win it. We were so incredibly close this year that the hunger and desire to get back to that setting and give it another go is within our group.”

Vanney gave the night off to several starters, including captain Michael Bradley and top scorer Sebastian Giovinco, while backup goalkeeper Clint Irwin played in place of Alex Bono. Veteran forward Jozy Altidore and Akinola started up front for TFC.

Tournament regulations state that each team must field a minimum of three Canadians in their starting lineups. Ottawa coach Nikola Popovic had seven, including former TFC defender Nana Attakora.

Toronto’s attack gave Ottawa plenty of fits in the opening half hour, with Akinola and Marky Delgado carving out scoring chances. Attakora had to make a headed, goal-line clearance to deny Akinola, while Altidore and Delgado linked up to good effect.

The breakthrough came in the 36th minute when Liam Fraser floated a long pass to the back post. Fellow Canadian Ryan Telfer managed to get a foot on it, playing the ball across the six-yard box. Ottawa defender Jeremy Gagnon-Lapare’s clearance was haphazard, allowing the onrushing Akinola to slam it home. It was Akinola’s first goal for the MLS club.

“He shows a ton of potential … and showed a physical presence in this game to be able to compete against big centre back, and be strong and hold up the ball, to be able to turn in between lines and still keep the game moving forward,” Vanney said of Akinola.

Hamilton poked the ball into the back of the net from inside the six-yard box off a setup from fellow Canadian Ashtone Morgan in the 76th minute to put the game beyond Ottawa’s reach.

Osorio, another Canadian who came on as a second-half substitute, sealed the win for Toronto when he took a pass from Delgado before firing a gorgeous shot off the crossbar and past Fury goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau.

NOTES: A moment of silence was observed prior to kickoff to honour those killed and wounded in Sunday’s shooting spree on Danforth Avenue… TFC returns to MLS action on Saturday evening, hosting the Chicago Fire… The winner of this tournament will receive the Voyageurs Cup, which was originally funded and awarded by the Voyageurs, a Canadian soccer supporters group founded in 1996. Since 2008, the Canadian Soccer Association has presented the Voyageurs Cup to the tournament champion…


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