Micheal Baldisimo netted his first-ever Major League Soccer goal on Saturday, helping his Vancouver Whitecaps earn a 3-2 win over Toronto FC.
Lucas Cavallini and Jake Nerwinski also scored for the ‘Caps (3-6-0), who snapped a three-game losing skid.
Jonathan Osorio and Alejandro Pozuelo found the back of the net for TFC (5-2-3).
Despite the final score, Toronto dominated play throughout much of the match, outshooting the Whitecaps 22-7.
Thomas Hasal stopped seven of TFC’s chances while Quentin Westberg did not register a save.
The win awards Vancouver a much-needed three points in the round-robin portion of this year’s Canadian Championship. Toronto bested the ‘Caps in the first two meetings of the series last month with 3-0 and 1-0 results respectively.
The Whitecaps struggled to break through the midfield early in the match.
Baldisimo helped penetrate TFC’s coverage with a long ball across the field to Ali Adnan in the 17th minute. Adnan in turn got a pass off to Cavallini in the box, who headed the ball in past a diving Westberg for his first goal.
The ‘Caps signed Cavallini in the off-season, hoping he could provide some much-needed offence. But the 27-year-old Canadian striker has struggled to finish. He told reporters earlier this week that the situation was “frustrating” but he was trying to stay calm and positive.
“Once I start scoring,” Cavallini said. “I know I won’t stop.”
Toronto responded in the 25th minute when Auro Jr., got a nice ball to Pozuelo at the top of the penalty box. The Spanish midfielder found Osorio in front of the net, and Osorio popped in a left-footed shot to even the scoring.
Play began to get a bit rougher as the half came to a close and Adnan was shown the yellow card in the 44th minute for unsporting behaviour. The Iraqi defender stalked down the field, shouting at referee Silviu Petrescu.
TFC continued to press right until the half-time whistle, with Pablo Piatti taking a big shot from the top of the box in injury time, forcing Hasal to make a diving finger-tip save.
The visitors continued to bombard the young goalkeeper early in the second frame as Piatti sent another laser towards the ‘Caps net in the 52nd minute. The ball ricocheted off the post and out of harm’s way.
Four minutes later, there were vocal protests from Toronto after Laurent Ciman was called for taking Cavallini down. The ensuing free kick was blocked, but the rebound bounced out to Baldisimo at the top of the box. The 20-year-old sent a right-footed shot into the bottom left corner of the net to put the Whitecaps up 2-1.
Baldisimo celebrated his first-ever MLS goal with a back hand spring before being mobbed by his teammates.
Toronto evened the score yet again in the 71st minute when Piatti sent a long ball deep into Vancouver territory. Pozeulo collected the pass and beat Hasal with a diving header.
Another foul proved costly for the Reds, however. Ciman was called for unsporting behaviour in the 76th minute and the Whitecaps capitalized.
Adnan’s free kick went wide of the net but was played back in by Andy Rose. Defender Jake Nerwinski tapped the ball in, giving Vancouver another one-goal lead.
There were no anthems ahead of the game, but players from both teams gathered behind a banner reading “Enough is Enough” in a bid to show that the clubs stand opposed to systemic racism. Players and officials alike also knelt on the field before kickoff, with Vancouver’s Theo Bair and Derek Cornelius each raising their fists.
The stands at BC Place remained largely empty for the match, with COVID-19 restrictions keeping fans at home. Crowd noise was piped in over the sound system, including songs usually belted out by Whitecaps’ supporters clubs.
Despite their absence, the supporters’ banners remained. “Be kind, be calm, screw it … win!” read one, a playful nod to the infamous words of B.C.’s chief medical officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, who told the province to “be kind, be calm and be safe” in the early days of the pandemic.
The game was the first live sporting event to be held in Vancouver since the Canucks beat the New York Islanders 5-4 in a shootout on March 10.