By Joshua Clipperton
THE CANADIAN PRESS
VANCOUVER _ Gershon Koffie scored in the 87th minute as the Vancouver Whitecaps tied FC Edmonton 1-1 on Wednesday in the first leg of their Amway Canadian Championship semifinal.
Tomi Ameobi replied for Edmonton, which hosts the second leg next week.
Koffie, who was directly responsible for Ameobi’s early goal that stunned the Whitecaps, made amends for the error by poking a shot past Edmonton goalkeeper Matt Van Oekel with Vancouver pressing late.
Second-half substitute Robert Earnshaw had a chance to the win it for the Whitecaps, but his shot in stoppage time hit the side netting.
The Whitecaps fielded a younger lineup without much experience in Major League Soccer against their opponents from the second-tier NASL, but it was one of Vancouver’s few veteran players on the pitch who gifted Edmonton its goal just four minutes in.
Koffie collected a pass just outside his own penalty area only to be dispossessed by Ameobi, who moved in on Paolo Tornaghi before cooly slotting home his third goal of the competition.
Wednesday’s match was originally scheduled to be the second leg of the two-game, total-goals tie, but last week’s fixture in Edmonton had to be postponed until May 20 after a spring snowstorm blanketed the city.
Neither club has ever hoisted the Voyageurs Cup and the winner of the tie will face the Montreal Impact in the national final with a spot in the 2016-17 CONCACAF Champions League on the line. Montreal lost 3-2 to Toronto FC in the second leg of the other semi earlier Wednesday, but advanced on a 3-3 aggregate score thanks to the away goals rule.
Vancouver has already qualified for the 2015-16 Champions League after finishing as the top Canadian club in MLS last season.
The Whitecaps seemed stunned after going down early and were second best for much of the opening 45 minutes, but came out with more intensity in the second half, with Van Oekel making a great save on Erik Hurtado in the 49th minute before stopping David Mattocks on another grade-A chance in the 58th.
Whitecaps head coach Carl Robinson threw on Earnshaw with about 30 minutes left in hopes of sparking his team and Vancouver had another great chance in the 66th, but Hurtado rushed his shot and sliced it harmlessly wide before Koffie’s late heroics.
Note: Tornaghi made his first start for the Whitecaps after nearly 50 competitive games on the bench behind No. 1 ‘keeper David Ousted. … Edmonton beat the Ottawa Fury 6-2 on aggregate to advance to this round of the competition.