TORONTO — Fighting for their post-season lives with just four games to go in the regular season, the Vancouver Whitecaps arrived at BMO Field thinking only of themselves.
But Vancouver’s 2-1 victory over Toronto FC, in Toronto’s home stadium, didn’t only boost the Whitecaps’ playoff hopes. It ended Toronto’s.
And the Whitecaps (12-12-7) departed smiling just a little bit bigger.
“There was no sort of revenge going into the game,” said Russell Teibert. “Toronto’s got a good team, and that’s the reason why they’re reigning champs.
“It’s nice to put them out of the playoffs though,” he added with a grin. “I’ll definitely say that.”
The midfielder, from Niagara Falls, Ont., scored in the fourth minute when he connected on a gorgeous no-look pass from Yordy Reyna.
“I just saw my family in my stands after, and that’s pretty much all I remember from (the goal),” Teibert said. “It’s super nice to score a goal, let alone score it in front of my family and a lot of people from my hometown.”
Vancouver ‘keeper Stefan Marinovic praised his teammates for the “best first 10 minutes I’ve seen us play in a very, very long time. Effectively that 10 minutes won us the game… the way we pressed, they didn’t expect that from us.”
Jozy Altidore evened it up for Toronto (9-16-6) when he connected on a penalty kick in the 73rd minute after Doneil Henry was whistled for a hand ball in the box.
But four minutes later, an unmarked Kei Kamara one-timed a cross from Jordan Mutch from inside the six-yard box that Toronto ‘keeper Alex Bono had almost no hope of saving. It was Kamara’s sixth game-winning goal of the season.
The victory ended the Whitecaps’ three-game losing streak that matched their season-worst run. It was also the squad’s first win since they fired coach Carl Robinson and his assistants, and promoted Craig Dalrymple, former director of the Whitecaps FC Academy.
Killing Toronto’s playoff hopes, said Dalrymple, was an added bonus.
“Absolutely,” the coach said. “We’ve knocked them out, and we’re still alive. Extra special. I can’t remember the last time we won as a club in Toronto.”
It was 2016.
The win put Vancouver within three points of Real Salt Lake for the sixth and final playoff position. RSL and seventh-place Los Angeles played matches later Saturday, but the Caps have a game in hand on both clubs after the weekend.
The game marked Alphonso Davies’ last trip to BMO Field in a Vancouver uniform, although the 17-year-old is slated to be back there Oct. 16 for Canada’s CONCACAF Nations League game against Dominica. Davies is headed to Bayern Munich at the end of the season.
Davies was solid all night, and had a hand in Teibert’s goal, with a crisp pass to Reyna. With 11 assists on the season, he remains one assist shy of tying the Whitecaps’ season record. The teen star also took his lumps. He briefly had to leave the pitch after a hard tackle from Chris Mavinga. He was smacked in the face by Auro before being subbed out in the 69th minute.
Marinovic turned away five shots on the night, and came up with several huge saves — including on a couple of point-blank shots from Lucas Janson and Victor Vazquez — during a Toronto offensive onslaught late in the first half.
Marinovic believes the Whitecaps, who were coming off a 3-0 loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy last weekend, can ride this wave of momentum through the regular-season’s final three games.
“We definitely haven’t written off the season. We shouldn’t,” he said. “There are still three games to play, and everything to play for still. Great win today for us, gives us a little bit more hope.”
Vancouver hosts Sporting Kansas City on Oct. 17 at B.C. Place Stadium.
THE CANADIAN PRESS