VANCOUVER—Jordan Harvey emerged from his team’s locker room looking nothing short of grief-stricken. The Vancouver Whitecaps’ left fullback was still wrestling with what exactly happened in stoppage time vs. Toronto FC in the second leg of the Amway Canadian Championship final at BC Place on Wednesday night.
“That’s probably the worst way I’ve ever lost a game in my entire career, starting from when I was maybe six years old,” Harvey said. “Devastated, man. Really.”
The Whitecaps carried a 2–0 lead after the 90th minute—2–1 on aggregate—and the defence of the Voyageurs Cup they won for the first time last season seemed close to a sure thing.
But there are no sure things in soccer, and late into stoppage time, Whitecaps goalkeeper David Ousted got tangled up with central defender Kendall Waston. Ousted come out from his line in an attempt to grab the ball, while Waston had backed up, intending to head it away. Had Ousted managed to secure it, Vancouver would have celebrated their second straight championship.
Instead, Toronto midfielder Will Johnson pounced on the opportunity, scoring in the 95th minute. The Reds lost the game, but with the away-goals rule in effect, they won the championship.
While Harvey said he was incapable of putting into words just how crushing the loss was, he did express the nagging sense that what had happened was part of a bigger storyline for the club this year.
“Things like that have kind of summed up our season so far,” Harvey said. “We just need to clean it up, honestly. This team can go so far, we can go to MLS Cup, we just need to clean up those—and I keep saying this in every interview—those key mistakes in very important moments in the game.”
Vancouver coach Carl Robinson used the word “cruel” repeatedly in his post-match press conference, saying he was “absolutely gutted for the guys, because they gave me and the club and the organization absolutely everything. And we deserved to win, but we didn’t win.”
In the first half, Toronto, the slight favourite to win the championship after the 1–0 victory at home in the first leg of the final, had pushed the pace, attacking hard, as the Whitecaps had expected, eager to get that crucial away goal. Vancouver seemed to lack energy at the outset, but looked the more dynamic team as the game went on.
In the second half, Nicolas Mezquida entered the match as a replacement for Russell Teibert, who exited with a right quad strain. Mezquida’s entrance paid off quickly; he scored his second goal of the tournament in the 47th minute, sending in a beautiful header past Toronto goalkeeper Alex Bono.That goal seemed to lift the home side, who would gain another one courtesy of central defender Tim Parker in the 68th minute.
“I don’t know how to feel right now,” Parker said after the match, looking stunned. “I thought it was going to be enough, but it just goes to show that you’ve got to play every second of every match out.”
Ousted, for his part, took ownership over the mistake, explaining that he apologized to his teammates in the locker room.
“I’ll come out and say it, I cost us that one. I cost us the championship,” he said, adding that “it’s a fine line between success and failure, and today you saw how fine it is for a goalkeeper.”
The scene as the trophy was presented on the field at BC Place was a good reminder of that fine line—of how quickly what looks to be success can turn to disappointment, and vice versa. While Toronto celebrated, most of the 19,376 fans in attendance—the ones who’d been on their feet moments earlier, their cheers growing more thunderous as victory seemed more and more likely—streamed out of the stadium quietly, and Toronto was left to celebrate without much of an audience. Not that the team minded, of course.
“You know, it’s a final, we won at the last second,” Toronto captain Benoit Cheyrou said. “Three days ago, we lost the game at the last second of the ten minutes of additional time. So this is soccer, this is emotions and we’re glad to be on the good side tonight.”
Johnson, who’d taken a knock in the process of scoring the goal that earned his team the Cup, limped off the field, the victor’s medal hanging from his neck.
“It’s OK,” he said of the injury. “I’m not sure right now. It hurts.”
The Toronto native said his team had been fuelled by desperation in the dying minutes of the match. After all, winning the trophy meant everything.
“We played our strongest lineup every single game that we had—we went for it,” he said, heaping praise on his club’s commitment of resources. “We travelled here from Orlando, our club got us a charter from Orlando to Vancouver, we put a lot of money into it. We stayed at the nicest hotels, we got the best meals, and it paid off.”
While Toronto celebrated, members of the home side discreetly left the building. Harvey, before exiting, urged his team to use the loss to propel them forward.
“We’ve got to pick our heads up,” he said. “It’s going to hurt, maybe tonight, but coming in tomorrow we’ve got to pick our heads up and use this as motivation to push on the rest of the season.”
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