Laryea lifts Toronto FC to 1-0 win over Whitecaps and extend TFC's streak to 17
Toronto FC midfielder Richie Laryea (22) celebrates his goal with Toronto FC midfielder Michael Bradley (4) while Playing against the Vancouver Whitecaps during first half MLS Canadian Championship soccer action in Toronto on Friday, August 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press
Published Friday, August 21, 2020 10:28PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, August 21, 2020 10:48PM EDT
TORONTO - Richie Laryea's goal early in the match was all Toronto FC needed in a dominant 1-0 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps on Friday night at BMO Field.
Toronto (4-0-3) had plenty of chances as it extended its regular-season unbeaten streak to 17 games.
Vancouver (2-5-0) seemed listless for much of the match, struggling to derail TFC's surging offence.
Toronto possessed for 60 per cent of the match and held the ball for the majority of the second half.
Both teams and on-field officials took a knee before the opening whistle, with some players raising their fists in the air.
The Whitecaps official team account tweeted a photo of the demonstration, focusing on a single Black fist in the air with the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter to announce that the match was underway.
It didn't take long for Toronto FC to get on the board.
In the 15th minute, Laryea raced toward a cross from Alejandro Pozuelo dribbling just inside the box, bouncing his shot along the ground and past diving Whitecaps goalkeeper Thomas Hasal to give the home side a 1-0 lead.
With fans banned from the stadium to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protect players and officials, Laryea and his TFC teammates' celebrations echoed off the grandstands at BMO Field.
Moments later, cheers broke out on the northeast corner of the stadium as loyal Toronto FC fans watching the match from the street caught up to what had just happened. They had been vocal during the first quarter hour of the match but settled down after Laryea's goal.
Pablo Piatti had another sterling opportunity for TFC less than a minute later, taking a through pass to get behind Vancouver's defence. A diving Hasal got his outstretched hand on Piatti's left-footed shot to deflect the ball to safety.
The Whitecaps got their best chance of the first half when Toronto midfielder Liam Fraser hauled down a streaking Russell Teibert in the 33rd minute. Fraser got a yellow card for the foul but Vancouver wasn't able to capitalize on the ensuing free kick.
Vancouver had another opportunity in the opening minutes of the second half when Lucas Cavallini won a free kick in on the left wing. However, the free kick from just outside the box sailed over TFC's wall and beyond the goal to keep Toronto's lead safe.
Toronto continued to dominate play in the second half, picking apart the Whitecaps' defence repeatedly to setup more chances on Hasal. Each time the Vancouver 'keeper cleared the ball TFC's offence would reset, building pressure up again from its backline.
Marco Delgado had Toronto's best chance in the second half, squaring up for a close-range volley in the 82nd minute. Hasal was ready for the shot, catching it square in the chest.
Vancouver pressed again in the 84th minute with back-to-back corner kicks, with neither really testing TFC goalkeeper Quentin Westberg.
Pozuelo almost doubled Toronto's lead in the 88th minute, taking a looping pass over his shoulder to break in alone on Hasal. The Whitecaps goalkeeper got both hands on Pozuelo's rocket to deflect it over the net.
It was the second of nine games between Canada's three 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.
The Montreal Impact host Vancouver on Tuesday and Toronto on Aug. 28. The Impact plan to have 250 spectators in the stands at Stade Saputo.
The Whitecaps have said they will have no fans for their three home games in September.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 21, 2020.