Toronto FC eliminated from playoff contention after 2-1 loss to Whitecaps

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Toronto FC ran out of lives Saturday, eliminated from MLS playoff contention after a 2-1 loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Russell Teibert scored in the fourth minute and Kei Kamara delivered the coup de grace in the 78th minute for Vancouver (12-12-7), which got some stellar defence from centre backs Kendall Waston and Doneil Henry and goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic.

Things went from bad to worse for the MLS champions before a muted BMO Field crowd of 22,886 when Toronto defender Gregory van der Wiel was sent off in the 66th minute for a second yellow card. Both times the Dutch veteran was caught bodychecking a Whitecap to the ground.

Toronto (9-16-6) tied it at 1-1 in the 73rd minute after Henry, a former TFC player, was called for a handball in the box. Substitute Jozy Altidore hammered the penalty home to give Toronto hope.

But Kamara delivered a late dagger, tapping home a Jordon Mutch cross with the Toronto defence missing in action. It was his 14th of the season.

The game ended to a mixture of cheers and boos.

The win keeps Vancouver’s slim playoff hopes alive, at least temporarily.

For the second week in a row, Toronto went into the game knowing that a tie or loss coupled with a Montreal win would end its playoff run. Last week, TFC dodged a bullet by beating visiting New England 4-1 while D.C. United blanked Montreal 5-0.

But Montreal did not co-operate Saturday, defeating the Columbus Crew 3-0 to pile on the pressure on Toronto, whose game immediately followed.

The Whitecaps wasted no time adding to the pressure when Teibert found a crease in the Toronto midfield. Yordy Reyna fed him with a pass and Teibert beat Alex Bono with a left-footed shot.

Given the Montreal result, it meant Toronto had to score two goals.

It was just the third goal in 134 regular-season games for the Vancouver midfielder, who spent time with the Toronto academy prior to joining the Whitecaps organization.

Toronto has now allowed a league-worst 13 goals in the first 15 minutes of a game this season. Couple that with a 1-14-1 record (now 1-15-1) when conceding the first goal and things looked bleak for the MLS champs.

Toronto threw men forward in the second half and introduced Altidore, who left the last two games early with an ankle injury, in the 58th minute.

Sebastian Giovinco, recalled by Italy this week, had a bushel of chances in a wide-open game with five shots on goal (only one of which was on target) in the first half alone. But he also was a figure of frustration, throwing his hands up in the air several times when things did not go according to plan.

Giovinco forced a diving save by Marinovic in the 12th minute. And the New Zealand ‘keeper had to be sharp in the 16th when he stopped Lucas Janson from close range after a fine cross by Justin Morrow. Marinovic did it again in the 43rd, stopping a Bradley blast.

Janson started for Altidore.

Whitecaps teenager Alphonso Davies, who was involved in the Teibert goal setup, had a rough start, needing treatment twice in the first 20 minutes. He eventually exited in the 69th minute.

Toronto, meanwhile, began to lose its cool with Giovinco and van der Wiel having words after van der Wiel, who had a difficult half, was given a yellow in the 28th minute for clumsily taking down a Vancouver player.

The sun came out as the first half wore on and Toronto began to launch attacks, but was unable to breach a somewhat shaky Vancouver defence that had not registered a shutout since April 27.

Toronto won the MLS Cup, Supporters’ Shield and Canadian Championship last year while collecting a league-record 69 points. It made the final of the CONCACAF Champions League and won the Canadian Championship again this year, but its league campaign was full of frustration and disappointment.

The last MLS champion not to make the playoffs the next year was Portland, which beat Columbus 2-1 in the 2015 MLS Cup only to finish two points out of the playoffs in 2016 with a 12-14-8 record.

Vancouver arrived equally desperate, starting the day six points out of the playoffs. The Whitecaps had lost three straight to match their longest losing streak of the season (April 7-20).

It was the second game for caretaker coach Craig Dalrymple, the Whitecaps technical director who took over after Carl Robinson was fired Sept. 25. Vancouver lost 3-0 at the Los Angeles Galaxy in his debut.

It was the first meeting of the two teams since August when Toronto won the Canadian Championship final 7-4 on aggregate.

After the international break, Toronto plays at D.C. United and Montreal before wrapping up the regular season against league-leading Atlanta.

Vancouver hosts Sporting Kansas City before visiting Los Angeles FC and finishing at home to Portland.

 

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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press