Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Hassli's Late Goal Gives Whitecaps 1-1 Tie with Reds in First Leg of Final: Whitecaps and Toronto Draw 1-1 in First Leg

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Hassli's Late Goal Gives Whitecaps 1-1 Tie with Reds in First Leg of Final: Whitecaps and Toronto Draw 1-1 in First Leg

Article excerpt

VANCOUVER - Eric Hassli was accurate when he had to be Wednesday night.

Hassli came off the bench and scored a highlight-reel goal in added time to give the Vancouver Whitecaps a 1-1 draw with Toronto FC in the first leg of the Amway Canadian Championship soccer final before a crowd of 14,878 at B.C. Place Stadium.

"I'm a striker," Hassli said. "I have to score. But I'm disappointed for my teammates, because we wanted to win tonight."

The winner of the two-game, total-goals series will represent Canada in North American, Central American and Caribbean zone (CONCACAF) Champions League play. The CONCACAF champion will qualify for the 2013 FIFA Club World Cup.

The second leg goes next Wednesday in Toronto. The Reds are seeking their fourth straight Canadian title, while the Whitecaps are seeking to avenge a loss to TFC in last year's final.

Hassli volleyed in a long cross from Alain Rochat just as four minutes of extra time were announced. It was his fourth goal in five games since he ended a 17-game scoreless drought that dated to last season.

"It was incredible," said Whitecaps coach Martin Rennie. "It was probably too fast for the cameraman to see it."

The tying marker came a day after Hassli practised volleys off corner kicks but fired many shots into the B.C. Place Stadium seats, including one that almost hit Vancouver Province soccer writer Marc Weber as he was working on his laptop.

"I almost killed Marc yesterday," Hassli said. "Alain (Rochat) gave me a great ball, too. You have to be lucky, and I was lucky tonight."

So were the Whitecaps as a group. Until Hassli's goal, it looked like struggling Toronto was going to pull off an upset.

The Reds have just two victories in all competition this season, a 2-0 decision over the Montreal Impact in the second leg of their Amway semifinal and a 2-1 win over the Los Angeles Galaxy in the second leg of a CONCACAF Champions League quarter-final.

Vancouver, meanwhile, defeated Edmonton by a 5-1 margin in its semifinal and sports a respectable 5-3-2 mark in league play.

"It was tough giving up a goal the way we did," said Ryan Johnson, who scored Toronto's goal in the 66th minute. "But we have a chance to win it at home in front of our fans. That's very good for us."

The Whitecaps pressed in the first 20 minutes, but the Reds kept them hemmed in their half of the pitch for most of the next 25 minutes and much of the second half.

"Overall, it was a good game," Johnson said. "There's been so many negative games this year. It's good to have some good games under your belt."

Toronto had a chance to go up another goal in the 85th minute, but Vancouver goalkeeper Joe Cannon robbed second-half substitute Nick Soolsma from point-blank range.

Rennie said the save could prove crucial. A 2-0 Toronto lead would have made it difficult for the Whitecaps heading into the second leg. …

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