Edmonton coach Harry Sinkgraven could only wonder what might have been.
Maicon Santos scored twice as Toronto FC defeated hometown FC Edmonton 3-0 in the first leg of the Nutrilite Canadian Championships on Wednesday, but Edmonton played with 10 men for over an hour after Shaun Saiko was set off.
Saiko received a red card for a two-footed studs up challenge on Toronto's Oscar Cordon in the 23rd minute with the game still scoreless.
"Until the 23rd minute it was a game," Sinkgraven said. "After the red card, being down to 10 players, it was very hard for us to play. We had some good chances in the first half even with 10 players but in the second half we played for the counter-attack to try and keep our legs. But that was tough to overcome. They fought to the end though."
Edmonton defender Alex Surprenant disagreed with Saiko's dismissal.
"It really put us on the defensive," he said. "It was disappointing. Now we have to go to Toronto next week and score three goals and that's a big task."
Cordon said Edmonton could have no complaints with the dismissal.
"Both of my feet were back and he came at me studs up," Cordon said.
Alan Gordon also scored for Toronto, but Toronto head coach Aron Winter was not satisfied with his teams performance.
"The result was nice but our play was not," he said. "We have made lots of improvement in the last few games and we were able to give some players a rest and give other players an opportunity in this game. But I was not satisfied with how we played towards the end. We were not sharp enough."
The second match of the two-game total goal affair will take place in Toronto on May 4 with the winner of this series taking on the victor of the other semi-final between Montreal and Vancouver for the right to represent Canada in the 24-team CONCACAF Champions League.
Toronto had the bulk of the early opportunities, the best of which came in the 10th minute on a free kick near the top of the Edmonton box but Santos sailed the shot well over the Edmonton goal.
Edmonton came close to taking the lead two minutes later on a long shot by Chris Lemire that hit the side of the net with Toronto goalie Stefan Frei well beaten.
Toronto FC had a glorious opportunity in the 21st minute as Richard Eckersley was able to bring the ball in close but sent his cross just behind the oncoming Oscar Cordon.
Edmonton's Shaun Saiko, who scored the team's first goal in club history, was given a red card in the 24th minute for a two-footed challenge on Cordon.
But Saiko's dismissal seemed to give Edmonton some life as they came close twice in the 34th minute, first on a header by Conrad Smith and then a shot sailed just wide by Kyle Portrer.
However Toronto FC would take the lead a minute later as a defensive miscue by Paul Hamilton allowed Santos a shot from close range and he was able to find the bottom corner for a 1-0 lead.
Toronto nearly took a 2-0 into halftime but Santos' 43rd minute header rebounded off of the crossbar.
It didn't take long into the second half for Toronto to extend its lead as Alan Gordon's shot was parried by goalkeeper Reinn Baart to Cordon. His shot was blocked by a defender to Gordon who made the most of the second chance at the 47th minute to make it 2-0.
Toronto FC went up 3-0 in the 61st minute on a gift goal as Baart flubbed a goal kick, giving the red shirts a two-on-none rush at the net, finished off by Santos for the Brazilian's second of the match.
The fledgling Edmonton franchise came into the game with a 2-1 record in the North American Soccer League, and plays its first-ever home game on Sunday against Montreal.
Toronto FC has struggled to date to start the Major League soccer season with just one win in its first seven outings.