VANCOUVER – While the buildup for both the Vancouver Whitecaps and Toronto FC prior to opening day centered around some new arrivals, it was a familiar face who proved the difference on Saturday at BC Place, as Gershon Koffie’s 60th-minute strike proved decisive.
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The play started with a knockdown header from Darren Mattocks. Lee Young-Pyo collected the ball and played a one-two with Kenny Miller, then slotted the ball into Daigo Kobayashi. The Japanese midfielder, who joined the Caps this offseason, then claimed the first assist of his MLS career with a cool lay-off that teed up Koffie for the shot. The Ghanaian hammered what would prove to be the winner past TFC goalkeeper Joe Bendik.
Toronto, under debutant coach Ryan Nelsen, actually showed better than their 2012 last-place finish would've expected. During the scoreless first half, the visitors had the better of possession (55.2 percent). And they created the first opportunity from a Kyle Bekker free kick just four minutes in.
The opportunity arose after Vancovuer's Jay DeMerit took down newly signed TFC striker Robert Earnshaw. Bekker’s ball forced Joe Cannon into an awkward clearance, before the ball came out again. Once again, Cannon flapped unconvincingly, but his defense cleared it before anyone could get a foot on it.
Four minutes later, DeMerit was again the focus of attention for the home fans. The former US international went down after landing awkwardly, and limped off, replaced by Brad Rusin, who made his Whitecaps debut.
Despite Toronto's possession advantage, Vancouver saw plenty of flashes from their much-hyped speedsters Mattocks and rookie Kekuta Manneh. They continued to find space down the flanks, and looked to combine with each other and Kenny Miller. However, the Scotsman struggled with his final ball more than once, and was uninvolved in the move that saw the Caps' attack breakthrough via Koffie.
The home side nearly doubled their lead late, as halftime substitute Nigel Reo-Coker slipped Mattocks through on goal on a counterattack, but the Jamaican’s shot was well blocked by a sliding Richard Eckersley.
Toronto FC are next in action on Saturday as they host Sporting Kansas City at Rogers Centre.
VAN – Gershon Koffie 59’
TFC – Terry Dunfield 27’ (caution)
Vancouver – Joe Cannon; Lee Young-Pyo, Andy O’Brien, Jay DeMerit (Brad Rusin 7’), Alain Rochat; Gershon Koffie, Jun Marques Davidson, Kekuta Manneh (Nigel Reo-Coker 45’), Daigo Kobayashi (Erik Hurtado 76’); Darren Mattocks, Kenny Miller
Substitutes not used: Brad Knighton, Jordan Harvey, Camilo, Corey Hertzog
Toronto FC – Joe Bendik; Richard Eckersley, Danny Califf, Darren O’Dea, Ashtone Morgan; Reggie Lambe, Jeremy Hall, Terry Dunfield (Taylor Morgan 75’), Hogan Ephraim, Kyle Bekker; Robert Earnshaw (Emery Welshman 85’)
Substitutes not used: Quillan Roberts, Gale Agbossoumonde, Darel Russell, Jonathan Osorio, Andrew Wiedeman