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Toronto FC midfielder Alejandro Pozuelo, left, controls the ball as Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder Russell Teibert defends. TFC beat the Whitecaps 3-0 on Aug. 18, 2020.

COLE BURSTON/The Canadian Press

Pablo Piatti opened his Major League Soccer scoring account with a 25-foot rocket, then added another in the second half as Toronto FC handily defeated the Vancouver Whitecaps 3-0 on Tuesday.

Piatti, playing his first game at BMO Field, made his presence known all night, giving the Vancouver (2-4-0) defence fits as Toronto (3-0-3) kept the Whitecaps hemmed in their own end for most of the game.

The Argentine midfielder opened the scoring in the 27th minute as he hammered the ball into the top left corner of the Whitecaps goal, leaving goalkeeper Thomas Hasal with no chance.

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Piatti made it 2-0 in the 55th minute after getting a nice feed in the box from Jonathan Osorio and cooly sending the ball past Hasal.

Nick DeLeon put the game out of reach in the 83rd minute when he converted a nice pass from Alejandro Pozuelo.

Tuesday’s contest was the first of nine games between the three Canadian MLS teams. TFC, the Whitecaps and the Montreal Impact are staying in Canada for this phase of the season because of border restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Results during the all-Canadian stretch count in the MLS regular-season standings, and the top team through the nine games earns a spot in the Canadian Championship final.

TFC and the Whitecaps will face off again Friday at BMO Field.

Tuesday’s match was the first MLS game in Canada since March 7, when TFC beat New York City FC 1-0 in front of a crowd of 26,171.

Stands normally filled with raucous fans, chanting and stamping their feet to create a daunting atmosphere for opposing teams, sat empty due to COVID-19 safety measures. The Toronto FC starting lineup was belted out over the BMO sound system, each name being met with silence.

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But the club’s most ardent supporters, normally found in BMO Field’s animated south end, did their best to inject some energy into the atmosphere. A number of fans congregated across the road from the north end of the stadium, chanting, waving flags, banging drums and lighting flares from the opening kickoff to the final whistle.

The Whitecaps were fortunate to come out of a Toronto-dominated first half down just a goal. Toronto had nine shots on goal (four on target) to Vancouver’s one, and the Reds had six corners, to just one for the Whitecaps.

Piatti had another chance in the 35th minute after a nice set up from Pozuelo, but his shot was deflected over the Whitecaps goal. Jozy Altidore, in the starting lineup for the first time since March 7, had a chance blocked a minute later.

The second half was more of the same, with Toronto continuing to press and Vancouver unable to muster an effective counterattack. Final shots were 24 (eight on target) for Toronto to four (one on target) for Vancouver.

Quentin Westberg picked up the clean sheet for Toronto. He didn’t have to deal with much, making saves. Defender Ali Adnan had one of Vancouver’s rare chances in the 73rd minute, but his shot sailed over the Toronto goal.

The Whitecaps, who impressed last month at the MLS is Back in Orlando by taking a depleted squad to the knockout stages, look disjointed all game despite having some key reinforcements in their lineup.

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Forwards Lucas Cavallini, Fredy Montero and Tosaint Ricketts, along with defender Andy Rose and defender/midfielder Georges Mukumbilwa, did not make the trip to Orlando due to personal or medical reasons. Cavallini and Rose started on Tuesday, while Ricketts came on as a substitute in the 81st minute.

Among the supporters’ club flags that dotted the south stands was a large black-and-white banner that read “Love Football Hate Racism.” Players from both teams knelt before the game, some with a raised fist.

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