It was a 1-1 draw, but Toronto FC emerged with the advantage after an intense, if somewhat sloppy, encounter with the Montreal Impact.
Matteo Mancosu and Jozy Altidore traded goals in the first half on Wednesday night in the opening leg of the Canadian championship final at Saputo Stadium.
But with an all-important away goal in their pocket, TFC will have the advantage going into the second leg of the two-game, total-goals series next Tuesday at BMO Field in Toronto.
“Theoretically it’s a good result,” said Toronto coach Greg Vanney. “A 1-1 draw with a road goal. We’ll take it.”
Their first matchup since TFC beat Montreal in overtime of a wild MLS Eastern Conference final in November had more big moments as Impact star Ignacio Piatti missed from the penalty spot in the 54th minute and both sides wasted glittering chances in and end-to-end final 20 minutes.
But what set the less than sellout crowd of 14,329 to booing was Altidore’s tying goal in the 30th minute, which came with Montreal defender Daniel Lovitz on the ground in pain after cutting open his knee in a pileup at the edge of the 18-yard box.
Toronto didn’t play the ball out of bounds to stop play as teams often do when a player on either team is injured, but instead Raheem Edwards slipped the ball to Altidore in the space Lovitz should have been guarding for a lowshot that goalie Max Crepeau let slide under his body and into the goal.
Referee Silviu Petrescu could also have whistled the play dead, but chose not to.
“I’m not even sure if our guys knew there was a player down,” said Vanney. “It was pretty far away from them.
“In the grand scheme of things we’re not obligated to play the ball out of bounds. The referee can stop the play if he wants to, but honestly I’m not sure the guys even knew he was still on the ground.”
Montreal coach Mauro Biello disagreed.