O'Brian White

NCC Plot Thickens With Scoreless Draw

The MLS-bound Vancouver Whitecaps FC stayed alive in their quest to win their first Nutrilite Canadian Championship, scrapping out a 0-0 tie with Toronto FC at a wet and windy Swangard Stadium on Wednesday night.

The Whitecaps who will become MLS’ second Canadian franchise next season still control their own destiny in Canada’s CONCACAF Champions League qualifying tournament. Wins in their final two NCC matches, Vancouver could claim their first title ever.

Vancouver controlled the play throughout much of the match but their finishing woes continued. They have now scored just five total goals in eight matches this season.

Whitecaps midfielder Ricardo Sanchez was a thorn in the side of the visiting Reds who appeared prepared to stay in a defensive shell until late in the match.

Vancouver striker Marcus Haber couldn’t convert a dangerous cross from a Sanchez free kick in the 18th minute. The Mexican midfielder’s dangerous corner kick intended for the head of Nelson Akwari was punched away by Toronto goalkeeper Jon Conway 15 minutes later.

Then in 51st the speedy native of Guadalajara took the initiative himself and narrowly missed converting a dangerous left-footed blast which dipped and curved just wide of the Toronto goal.

Toronto coach Preki juggled his starting XI before the match with designated player Julian de Guzman remaining out of the Toronto starting lineup with a hamstring injury while Conway saw his first action of the season in place of usual starter Stefan Frei.

Frei, who earned his third shutout in last Saturday’s 0-0 tie against the LA Galaxy, was joined on the bench by usual Toronto starters like striker Chad Barrett, midfielder Martin Saric and defender Nick Garcia who eventually entered the match as second half substitutes.

Toronto leading scorer Dwayne De Rosario created some of the Reds best scoring chances.

In the opening half the Canadian international midfielder created his own space in the Vancouver penalty area but couldn’t link up with striker O’Brian White.

During the final ten minutes of the match Toronto pressed forward as a dipping volley by Amado Sanyang in the 80th minute appeared to have Vancouver goalkeeper Jay Nolley beaten but flew just over the crossbar.

De Rosario missed a golden opportunity to give his Reds the defending champion Reds the tournament title but his point blank shot was stopped by Nolly in the 82nd minute.

A severe storm with high winds and heavy rains swept through Canada’s southern Pacific coast ahead of the match and conditions on the natural turf surface were slippery and heavy throughout the match.

It was announced on Wednesday that the NCC winner will move on to play a two-leg home-and-home preliminary round series against Motagua of Honduras. Former TFC midfielder Amado Guevara, cut loose by Toronto in the off-season, now plays with Motagua. The domestic competition continues next Wednesday when the Whitecaps travel east to face the Montreal Impact and then concludes on June 2 when Vancouver visit BMO Field in Toronto.

TFC play their next game on Saturday in league-play when they host the New England Revolution.