After putting the millstone around his own team's neck over the last few days, Toronto FC forward Danny Koevermans was only too happy to bestow it on someone else.
"Vancouver lost to the worst team in the world today," he said, tongue-in-cheek, after TFC was crowned Canadian champion for a fourth straight year. "So maybe they are today now the worst team in the world."
That might be a bit of a stretch, especially given that the Whitecaps are sitting fourth in Major Leaague Soccer's Western Conference, firmly on course for a playoff berth while TFC sits dead last overall without a point to its name.
Still, having creating something of a maelstrom around BMO Field by repeatedly labeling his club as the world's worst since it lost to D.C. United last Saturday, Koevermans, and everyone else associated with TFC, was hopeful that Wednesday's 1-0 win – for a 2-1 aggregate score - would be the springboard to better things, starting Saturday against the Philadelphia Union.
"We're still o and 9 and we have to get something out of Saturday," he said. "If it's a point that's fine, but we have to get off the zero points, but I'm not making stupid comments like that again, because I had my lesson."
Vancouver should have also learned something of a lesson, with the second-year MLS club showing little in a game in which it needed to be on the front foot from the opening kickoff, yet surprisingly failed to force a single save from TFC goalkeeper Milos Kocic.
"A number of key incidents didn't quite go our way tonight," said manager Martin Rennie, "and in cup finals they're often very tight games, very close games and when you get a chance here or there you have to take them and we didn't do that and it's disappointing."
Chief among those incidents was the sending-off of both Toronto midfielder Julian de Guzman and Vancouver forward Sebastian Le Toux – for a second yellow card – just before the hour mark. While de Guzman acknowledged he lost his head in striking Jun Marques Davidson after being stamped on by the Whitecaps midfielder, Rennie was incensed at the proceedings.
"I was literally two yards away from it so no one can have a better view of it than I had," he said. "De Guzman came across and threw [a player]on the ground and then hit someone – I would say punched them in the face – and from that incident we gained nothing and I'm at a loss as to how that can happen in the game of football and us end up with 10 men and that to me was a hugely disappointing moment in the game."
Though he also lashed out at the Canadian Soccer Association for appointing an Ontario-based referee for the game – the CSA countered by saying Silviu Petrescu was the most experienced official available – the dual dismissal certainly opened up what had been a cagey, choppy affair to that point.
Toronto eventually took full advantage of the extra space on offer, and though substitute Nick Soolsma was denied a goal for offside in the 80th minute, the home side found a breakthrough shortly afterwards.
Full-back Ashtone Morgan did his best to hold up the ball on the edge of the area and eventually found Ryan Johnson – the eventual player of the tournament – and his cross was turned past Joe Cannon by quick-silver winger Reggie Lambe with just seven minutes remaining.
Those last few minutes saw a desperate Vancouver side press for the goal that would have taken the tie to extra time, but the Toronto back line held firm – it had only been breached once in four Amway Canadian Championship games – and even with five minutes of added time the visitors could not find a way through.
Vancouver now travels to Portland on Saturday, with its sights firmly fixed on the playoffs, while Toronto – with another CONCACAF Champions League campaign in the offing – extended the interest in its season, a welcome scenario given that only 13,777 showed up to Wednesday's game.
"You lose nine games and all of a sudden you're a champion," Kocic said. "It's kind of like a different mentality in the locker room now, you can hear everybody's happy, everybody's laughing but like I say, we need to celebrate, we need to feel happy inside."