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Toronto FC 's Maicon Santos scored his team's only goal to save them from a loss in the first leg of the Nutrilite Canadian Championship. ((Chris Young/Canadian Press))

Toronto FC coach Aron Winter was not impressed with his team's effort Wednesday night, but he was not about to complain about the final score.

Maicon Santos scored in the 73rd minute Wednesday as Toronto rallied for a 1-1 draw with the Vancouver Whitecaps in the first leg of the Nutrilite Canadian Championship.

"We didn't play well, but we got a good result," Winter said.

Eric Hassli replied for the Whitecaps, who will need to score at least once -- and hold the Reds scoreless -- in the second leg of the two-game, total-goals series May 25 at Toronto's BMO Field if they want to claim the national title.

The Whitecaps controlled play for most of the match but could not reproduce the same scoring magic they displayed in their 4-2 Major League Soccer debut victory over the Reds in March on the same Empire Field pitch.

The atmosphere was more subdued than the season opener with the  Whitecaps having gone winless in 10 straight MLS games. They still have only one home win on the season.

"I'm disappointed with the result, but I'm very proud of the guys," said Whitecaps coach Teitur Thordarson. "They played extremely well and, in fact, they dominated the game for at least 75 minutes."

Winter denied that his club stole a point, but Thordarson felt the Whitecaps were theft victims after Hassli hit the post on another attempt in the 48th minute, Brazilian striker Camilo hit the crossbar and other Vancouver players had near-misses.

"In the second half, it's unbelievable that we did not score at least four goals," said Thordarson.

The onus is on Vancouver now to score a few more goals in Toronto. Away goals serve as the first tie-breaker.

The winner of the Canadian championship series qualifies for 2011-12 CONCACAF Champions League play. The winner of that competition will represent the CONCACAF zone, which includes North America, Central America and the Caribbean, in the 2012 FIFA Club World Cup.

Toronto goalkeeper Stefan Frei said he was glad the Whitecaps did not take advantage of all their chances.

"I think we fought for the point," Frei said. "Whether we deserved it or not, at this point, we don't really care. It's a point that's very valuable for us, a valuable away goal obviously, and we need to take care of business at home."

Santos flicked in Nick Soolsma's cross from the right flank from 10 yards out to give Toronto a precious away goal.

"We made a mistake there," said Thordarson. "There's no doubt about that. But, in the same vein, I feel that [the tie] was undeserved."

Hassli finally opened the scoring in the 64th minute. He took a pass from Davide Chiumiento, deked Toronto forward Joao Plata and fired a curling 25-yard shot past goalkeeper Stefan Frei.

It was Hassli's first goal since April 6, when after scoring on a penalty, he threw his jersey into the crowd and received his second yellow card and automatic ejection.

This time, Hassli went to the bench and hugged his teammates. The goal came after Vancouver coach Teitur Thordarson called for Hassli to start playing like his old self.

"Yeah, obviously, it was great to score, but at the end I didn't feel we got a good result," said the French-speaking Hassli through an interpreter.

Added Thordarson: "It was a fantastic goal. I just hope we can get him going now on that streak."

Vancouver's Alain Rochat almost eked out a win in the final minute as he won a high ball from Frei, but his header hit the side netting.

"I thought overall tonight we played very well," said Vancouver captain Jay DeMerit. "You look at It's always frustrating to walk off the field with a 1-1 draw after the way we dominated the game today. But you have to look at the positive and you have to think it's half-time and you have to think that if we can do that there, then we'll come out at the right end."