Toronto, Ottawa win 1st legs of Canadian Championship semis
Osorio, Hamilton each score twice for TFC
For most of Toronto FC's young lineup, Wednesday night's Amway Canadian Championship semifinal against Montreal was a 90-minute job audition.
They made the most of it.
Toronto built a 4-0 lead and held it until the 86th minute. The Impact scored two late goals to end the game at 4-2, making next Wednesday's second leg in Montreal far more interesting.
Jonathan Osorio and Jordan Hamilton each scored twice as Toronto FC showed off a made-in-Canada attack. Impact substitute Michael Salazar headed in a marvellous Didier Drogba cross in the 86th minute and then Drogba himself beat Clint Irwin with a free kick in stoppage time.
"A lot of guys on the team that played today don't normally play," said Osorio, one of perhaps four starters in Toronto's lineup. "When you get your chance in these games, it's very easy to be motivated.
The Impact fielded the more established team on paper but failed to deliver for the first 85 minutes and were schooled by a young Toronto squad before an approving BMO Field crowd of 22,143 that included Raptors big man Bismack Biyombo.
Montreal was reduced to 10 men in first-half stoppage time when captain Patrice Bernier was shown a straight red for a studs-up tackle on Toronto midfielder Daniel Lovitz. An irate Lovitz bounced up and went after Bernier, precipitating a melee. He was fortunate to escape sanction from referee David Gantar for the retaliation.
Montreal coach Mauro Biello called the red card "a little bit harsh." Toronto counterpart Greg Vanney saw it as a dangerous play that luckily did not result in injury.
With no Sebastian Giovinco (adductor), Jozy Altidore (hamstring) or captain Michael Bradley (Copa America), Toronto was without $18.4 million US worth of designated players based on their salaries this season.
Montreal was also missing players but was still able to start its first-string attack in Drogba, Ignacio Piatti, Dominic Oduro and Lucas Ontivero. Despite the stars on display, Montreal was listless in the first half and trailed 2-0 at the break.
"It's disappointing to come out that way," said a clearly irked Biello. "Toronto wanted it more. You could see the first half we were second to everything. We were too casual in the back."
Ottawa shuts out Vancouver
Head coach Paul Dalglish couldn't have asked for more from his Ottawa Fury.
Jonny Steele and Paulo Junior both scored as Ottawa upset the Vancouver Whitecaps 2-0 on Wednesday in the first leg of the tournament.
The second leg of the series is scheduled for June 8 at BC Place Stadium. The aggregate winner will advance to the championship final against the winner of the other semifinal between the Montreal Impact and Toronto FC. Toronto defeated Montreal 4-2 in its first leg of the semifinal on Wednesday.
Hosting and beating a club from the higher-tier MLS was a first in Fury history and the 9,057 on hand will not soon forget the home team's dominating performance.
"I thought we were fantastic," said Dalglish. "[Wednesday] you saw that if we do it collectively and we work together we can do it against MLS opposition as well. Really, really pleased."
The defending champion Whitecaps appeared to get caught off guard by the Fury pressure right from the start and struggled to make adjustments.
"We had a young group and it was a challenge for them and I think some of them got a little bit surprised in the first half in the way of the tempo of the game," said Whitecaps head coach Carl Robinson. "All credit to Ottawa, they deserved to win [Wednesday] because they won their individual battles. They played the way they like to play."
The Fury held no illusions coming into the game and accepted the role of underdogs, but were confident, played with poise and were rewarded.
"This was the first time we played an MLS team and we got a victory so no matter what happens next it will always be something to look back on," said keeper Romuald Peiser. "Now we need to be ambitious and realize that it's half time between the two games and we have 90 very complicated minutes awaiting us in Vancouver."