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Toronto FCs Ayo Akinola battles for the ball with Nana Attakora, right, òf the Ottawa Fury in Toronto on Wednesday, July 25, 2018.Mark Blinch/The Canadian Press

Ayo Akinola scored his first senior goal for Toronto FC on Wednesday night with coach Greg Vanney, taking off his American hat, campaigning post-game for the Canadian Soccer Association to get moving and woo the 18-year-old forward into the Canadian fold.

Born in Detroit but raised in nearby Brampton from an early age, Akinola is a TFC homegrown player who has represented the U.S. at the under-17 level. His younger brother Tom is a member of the Toronto FC academy and has attended a Canadian under-14 camp.

Akinola opened the scoring Wednesday in Toronto’s 3-0 win over Ottawa Fury FC, sending the MLS champions to the Canadian Championship final with a 4-0 aggregate victory over the second-tier USL side.

The Whitecaps downed the Montreal Impact 2-0 in Vancouver later Wednesday night to come out on top of the second semifinal 2-1 on aggregate. The two-legged Canadian Championship final between Toronto and Vancouver is set for Aug. 8 and 15.

Akinola is still eligible to play for Canada but would have to make a formal switch. While a Canada Soccer official said Canada is interested, it did not help its cause by not putting a Maple Leaf next to Akinola’s name on its Twitter lineup announcement as it did for Jay Chapman, Liam Fraser and Ryan Telfer.

Bottom line the U.S. appeared to have got to Ayo Akinola first even though he has a Canadian passport.

Akinola appeared in five matches at the U-17 World Cup last year with one goal and one assist. He spent time with the U.S. residency program in Bradenton, Fla., prior to the tournament and had four goals in the CONCACAF U-17 Championship in April.

Vanney, who always refers to Akinola as a Canadian, made his feelings known on the issue when a reporter asked whether the young forward was considered a Canadian or American. The normally composed coach slowly exited the room — delivering a verbal equivalent of throwing up his hands at Canada’s inability to go after the teen.

As for Akinola, he was basking in his goal and man-of-the-match performance before family and friends. Hamilton and fellow Canadian Jonathan Osorio also scored for Toronto.

“A great feeling. A proud achievement ... I hope many more to come,” he said.

The goals were the high points in a largely forgettable second-leg semifinal before 18,795 at BMO Field. Ottawa had a bright start but Toronto turned the screws as the game wore on and the Fury were on their heels in the dying minutes.

“I think at the end Toronto is a fair winner in this game,” said Ottawa coach Nikola Popovic, whose team had five shots but none on goal.

Akinola opened his account in the 36th minute after Telfer poked a long ball from Fraser across the goal. Defender Jeremy Gagnon-Lapare was unable to clear the ball and Akinola knocked it in from the far side of the goal.

Akinola, who started the first leg in Ottawa, was making his home debut for the first team after two substitute league appearances on the road. He has been an unused sub 18 times this season in league play.

Hamilton, a halftime substitute, made it 2-0 in the 76h minute, knocking in Ashtone Morgan’s low cross while Telfer was down in the ground with what looked like a leg cramp.

Osorio scored a beauty in the 84th minute, turning in the penalty box before firing a shot high into the net. It was his third goal in the last three games and 13th in all competitions this season.

TFC has won the Canadian title six times, including the last two editions, since the competition started in 2008. The Montreal Impact have hoisted the trophy three times while the Vancouver Whitecaps have emerged winners once.

Toronto has made the final four times in the last five years.

The tournament winner earns the Voyageurs Cup, US$50,000 and a berth in the CONCACAF Champions League.

Toronto striker Jozy Altidore and defender Chris Mavinga, who returned on the weekend from injury, both continued in the starting 11. Hamilton replaced Altidore at the half as Vanney looked to manage his minutes on the comeback trail from foot surgery.

Veteran defender Jason Hernandez captained the side. A strong bench featured Michael Bradley, Sebastian Giovinco and Osorio. The big guns were not needed although Osorio made his presence felt after coming off the bench in the 69th minute.

Toronto, which had banned all supporter groups privileges after a fiery display in the stands in the first leg in Ottawa, relented and reinstated the privileges for some of the groups earlier in the day.

The Red Patch Boys, Kings in the North and Tribal Rhythm Nation seemed in their usual places at BMO Field. But there were plenty of empty seats in the south stand, which usually is home to a phalanx of flag-waving hardcore fans.

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