TORONTO — Toronto FC will get another crack at continental glory.
The Reds rode a Jozy Altidore hat-trick to a 5-2 victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps in the second leg of the Canadian Championship final Wednesday night at BMO Field, winning 7-4 on aggregate. Sebastian Giovinco and Tosaint Ricketts also scored for Toronto, which claimed a seventh Voyageurs Cup, its third in a row and a return to the Concacaf Champions League in 2019. TFC lost the final of that competition 0n penalties in April.
“Not yet,” Jonathan Osorio, the tournament MVP, said when asked if the trophy felt like redemption for Champions League heartbreak. “It’s a step towards that. That’s what we wanted to do. Redemption isn’t until we get back to Concacaf and we handle business there and get to the final. That’s redemption, but this is a step towards that.”
Vancouver replied through Kei Kamara and Brek Shea in the second half, but fell at the last hurdle of this competition for the seventh time. The Whitecaps have won it just once, in 2015.
Carl Robinson’s team never looked much like causing an upset. Altidore made up for his red card against New York City FC at the weekend with a razor-sharp display of finishing which began when he latched on to Marky Delgado’s back-heeled flick to fire the opener past goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic.
Delgado was not originally slated to start the game, but Toronto coach Greg Vanney was forced to pull star midfielder Victor Vázquez out of his lineup at the last minute due to an apparent flare-up in a knee injury he has been managing. The 23-year-old did an admirable job filling in and was involved again when Giovinco doubled the lead on the stroke of half time, sliding Osorio into space for the Canadian to cross. The 5-foot-4 Giovinco nodded in for his first headed goal for TFC.
Vancouver had rarely threatened, with a 25-yard attempt by Alphonso Davies its nearest miss, and did not muster up much in the way of a response after the break. In the 49th minute, Giovinco rifled a low cross into the six-yard box that somehow went untouched until it reached Altidore, who tapped in for his second.
When Altidore flicked in a Giovinco corner just four minutes later to complete the hat trick, a rout was on the cards.
“Going into the tie, we knew it was going to be difficult,” Robinson said. “Forget about the results in league play sometimes — on the day, we knew if their big players turned up it was going to be difficult.”
Kamara pulled one back, though, running clear on goal after Yordy Reyna had passed behind the Toronto defensive line, and the introduction of Shea, Nicolás Mezquida and Erik Hurtado from the bench brought more life to the Whitecaps’ attack. When Shea converted from close range to make it 4-2 in the 77th minute, it looked as if we might be in for an interesting finale.
But Vancouver’s defending continued to disappoint. Doneil Henry had been under pressure from Ricketts when he headed a crucial equalizer into his own net in the last minute of the first leg, a 2-2 draw last week at BC Place, and his compatriot came off the bench to cause him problems again. Ricketts rose above Henry to flick a Michael Bradley free-kick past Marinovic and put the result beyond doubt.
Asked if he considered there to be unfinished business in the Champions League, Bradley said: “I certainly think so. We can talk about how strange or ridiculous it is in some ways that our only way into Champions League is by winning this tournament, but that’s our reality. It takes a tournament that means a lot to us to begin with and it doubles down on its importance.”