Second-half substitute Eric Hassli’s highlight-reel goal in added time gave the Vancouver Whitecaps a 1-1 draw with Toronto FC in the first leg of the Amway Canadian Championship soccer final Wednesday night.
Hassli volleyed in a long cross from Alain Rochat just as four minutes of added time were announced. It was his fourth goal in five games since he ended a 17-game scoreless drought that dated to last season.
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.
Ryan Johnson scored for the Reds in the 66th minute.
Until Hassli’s goal, it looked like struggling Toronto was going to pull off an upset.
The Reds have just one victory in all competition this season, a 2-0 decision over Montreal Impact in the second leg of their Amway semifinal. That win came after a scoreless first leg and eight straight Major League Soccer losses.
Vancouver, meanwhile, defeated Edmonton by a 5-1 margin in its semifinal and sports a respectable 5-3-2 mark in league play.
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.
Toronto midfielder Terry Dunfield, a former Whitecap playing his first game in his hometown since a trade last summer, headed the ball over the net from near the goal line in the 26th minute.
Three minutes later, Toronto goalkeeper Milos Kocic outraced Brazilian striker Camilo to a long through ball from Rochat. In the 32nd minute, Vancouver goalkeeper Joe Cannon caught a header from Adrian Cann off a Toronto corner kick.
Cannon made another good save in the 39th minute, grabbing the ball from a diving Doneil Henry.
But the best action of the first half came in the 45th minute as Kocic stopped Le Toux from point-blank range.
Vancouver coach Martin Rennie attempted to insert more offence as he substituted Hassli in for Etienne Barbara, who generated little in his first start as a Whitecap.
But it was Toronto who scored first as Johnson headed in Julian de Guzman’s cross from the corner of the 18-yard box.
However, Hassli, who was denied a goal in a second leg of the 2011 final between these clubs that was abandoned by a sudden storm, had the last laugh.
Notes: Dunfield was cautioned in the 49th minute after he made a hard tackle on Matt Watson, drew a foul and then kicked the ball away. ... Toronto’s Jeremy Hall took a yellow card for throwing a hip check on Camilo near the sideline in the 12th minute. ... Vancouver striker Atiba Harris, recovering from a bruised thigh, did not dress. ... Injured Reds captain Torsten Frings (shoulder) and defender Miguel Aceval (hamstring) did not make the trip west. ... Toronto forward Danny Koevermans dressed as a substitute after missing five games with a sore groin suffered in training after an April 14 loss to Chivas USA. ... Reds forward Richard Eckersley served a one-game suspension after taking a direct red card in the second leg of the semifinal win over Montreal.