Reds Rocket To NCC Final

Defining Moment

A 21st minute goal from Alan Gordon gave Toronto FC a 1-0 win over visiting FC Edmonton, increasing the Reds' advantage in the Nutrilite Canadian Championship semifinal to 4-0 aggregate, a total more than enough for a berth in the NCC Final against Vancouver on May 18 in B.C. and 25 at BMO Field.

Toronto had many chances in this match before the breakthrough arrived when Gordon himself held the ball up for Tony Tchani, who made a long run down the middle. The midfielder found Joao Plata to his left, from where the Ecuadorian cut inside and flicked the ball to a streaking, unmarked Gordon who rocketed it into Edmonton's goal. It was Gordon's second goal in NCC - drawing him level with teammate Maicon Santos for the tournament lead.

Pitch Battles

Toronto used its familiar 4-3-3 formation with a couple of changes. Tony Tchani played behind the strikers, while Plata worked on the left side of attack, opposite to where he played in the first leg. Richard Eckersley made his second appearance for Toronto (both against Edmonton) at his favoured right back position. In contrast, Mikael Yourassowsky, normally a winger, was the second holding midfielder alongside Julian de Guzman.

Tchani seemed to enjoy his new role, searching out options on the flanks when Toronto went forward. At the seventh minute he found Plata for a cross to Gordon, that was headed wide. Toronto continued to look strong on the left, with fullback Danleigh Borman threading through a couple of visionary passes to Gordon to create scoring chances. On the right, Jacob Peterson and Eckersley chipped in mouth watering crosses four minutes apart in the first half to continue the relentless pressure by the Reds.

Man of the Match

Plata earned a lot of praise during the first leg in Edmonton and now in front of the BMO Field faithful, he has likely converted many new believers in the ability possessed within his slight 5'3" frame. He was heavily involved in the setup to three of four goals in this series and only a 77th minute save from Edmonton goalkeeper Lance Parker kept the rookie forward from getting on the score sheet.

Other consideration for MOTM includes Gordon for his goal and excellent hold up play that allowed the Reds to swarm the Edmonton third in numbers. Stefan Frei wasn't bothered much in goal but he was sharp when called upon and kept cool during dangerous backpasses to earn the clean sheet. Tchani had a strong outing, particularly in the first half and in the backline, Adrian Cann was quick to discourage Edmonton's attack on many occasions.

Starting XI

Toronto: Stefan Frei, Danleigh Borman, Adrian Cann, Ty Harden, Ricahrd Eckersley, Mikael Yourassowsky, Julian de Guzman (Matt Gold 72'), Tony Tchani (Nick Soolsma 72'), Joao Plata, Alan Gordon (Maicon Santos 65'), Jacob Peterson ... Substitutes not used: Milos Kocic, Dicoy Williams, Oscar Cordon, Javier Martina ... Goal: Gordon 21' ... Caution: Yourassowsky 60'

Edmonton: Lance Parker, Niko Saler, Paul Hamilton, Dominic Oppong (Mutanda Kwesele 73'), Antonio Rago, Kyle Yamada, Chris Kooy, Sam Lam, Kyle Porter, Daniel Antoniuk (Shawn Chin 85'), Conrad Smith (Paul Craig 62') ... Substitutes not used: Jasminder Gill, Alex Surprenant, John Jonke, Eddy Sidra

Following Fixture

MLS - Match 9
Saturday, May 7

7 p.m. GOL TV Canada
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Houston bolted up to third place in the Eastern Conference on the strength of three wins and a draw in a stretch before having their unbeaten streak snapped by Colorado on Wednesday evening at home. Unless the loss is due to a lasting dip in form, Toronto will have to contend with a pair of red hot towering strikers Cam Weaver and Will Bruin who have seven goals between them. The forwards are aided by the league's top playmaker, Brad Davis, who has a cultured left foot and a history of tormenting Toronto. 

Touchline Tales

Toronto's win is an obvious blessing as the Reds will now compete for a chance at the 2011/12 CONCACAF Champions League by playing in the NCC Final. However, this also adds two more midweek matches and a 3300km Vancouver-bound flight to the Reds' already congested May schedule. Head coach Aron Winter will have to cope with this, which may require him to make heavy squad rotation. It's a great opportunity for players not usually associated with the first team to make their mark. May will test Toronto greatly as the team balances between its immediate MLS commitments and Champions League ambitions through NCC.