During the close season, Toronto FC lobbied hard for the services of Tottenham Hotspur FC's English striker Jermain Defoe, and AS Roma's American midfielder Michael Bradley. Neither man was of much use to their respective clubs.
Defoe started 11 of Tottenham's last 41 matches before the transfer, while Bradley only managed 5 out of 19. Between transfer fees and player wages, the duo cost Toronto close to a 100 million.
Today, they both proved their value by scoring in the 2-1 victory. Vancouver Whitecaps FC's squad included four players who were making their professional debut, and three more on the bench who could have come on for their first match.
If Vancouver were to sign all five academy players who featured in the 18 to the Major League Soccer minimum, their combined value would be $1,764,655.17. By comparison, Toronto's squad cost $15,803,362.50, or about nine times that of the visitors.
An early corner by Kyle Bekker would have seen the home side take the lead if not for the intervention of Marco Bustos, who headed a ball from Steven Caldwell off the line in the 3rd minute. Carducci made a brave save seven seconds later from a Gilberto run.
In the 28th minute, Gilberto was at it again, in possession while Issey Nakajima-Farran and Defoe were standing in offside positions. Nigel Reo-Coker played this countryman onside, and then immediately raised his hand, hoping that the linesman would flag one or both of the reds offside.
In a match that featured so many schoolboys, one would hardly have expected the vital error to come from the 29-year old. In Reo-Coker's defence, he hasn't played a competitive match in 46 days. He was bound to be rusty.
Capitalising on it, Gilberto sent a through ball, which Defoe got on the other end of. By the time Reo-Coker had realised that the linesman would offer him no respite, Defoe was already twelve yards ahead of him, and now faced 17-year old goalkeeper Marco Carducci in a one-on-one situation.
The homegrown player did well, making himself larger, cutting down the angle, but the six million dollar man put the ball under Carducci's left glove, and just out of reach of Johnny Leverón's desperate run.
Down 1-0 with 60 minutes left to play, you would be forgiven if you worried that this might be the first sign of opening floodgates, but Robinson had a plan.
Recently, the senior squad had played a closed door match against the U23s, and it ended in a 2-2 draw. He knew that these players could hold their own against MLS opposition.
After 45 minutes, the Whitecaps held 13.8% possession advantage over the home side, although they had not been able to translate that into many shots on target, trailing Toronto 3-2 in that regard.
Omar Salgado, who had been recalled from Charleston on Tuesday, came on for Marco Bustos in the 64th minute. Changing the 5'6" Manitoban for the 6'4" Texan may have been a like-for-like substitution, but Salgado certainly brought a different dimension, using his size and strength to full advantage.
In the 74th minute, he forced Joe Bendik into a reflex save, before combining with Nicolás Mezquida to win the ball back, and force Bendik into conceding a corner thanks to a ball that was dipping perfectly under the crossbar.
Three minutes later, Carl Robinson brought Sebastián Fernández and Kekuta Manneh on for Kianz Froese and Erik Hurtado.
With Toronto facing a difficult match against New York three days after the second leg, and given the line-up he had put out there, Carl Robinson decided to use Toronto's desire to wrap this up to his advantage.
Fernández, Salgado, Manneh, Mezquida, and Teibert all found space in the Toronto end. Vancouver earned four corners in the second half, and had their chances to equalise.
For a while, the second half looked like it would finish as it had begun, with Toronto eking out a narrow 1-goal victory.
But in the 88th minute, Vancouver got a corner. Toronto cleared it, but Alderson headed it back to the edge of the box. Vancouver had five players along the 18-yard line, while Toronto had six. They won the ball, sending it just beyond the penalty arc, where there four reds lying in wait, and no Whitecaps in position to contest the ball.
With possession and space, Toronto worked the ball out of their own half, creating a four on three. Defoe found Bradley as Leverón struggled to keep pace, but the American was able to tuck the ball into the far left hand corner before the Honduran could catch him.
As the fourth official signalled for a minimum of three minutes of added time, Craig Forrest said that "if Michael Bradley turns it on, and when he wants to get involved in the game, there's not a better player on the pitch."
In the 92nd minute, Caldwell wrapped both arms around Salgado in a bear hug. As Salgado tried to go around the Toronto defender in the box, Caldwell let go of everything but Salgado's wrist. Pulled off balance, Salgado fell to the ground, but the ball fell to Kekuta Manneh, who sent it to the bottom right hand corner.
But that's where things got really interesting. With at least 48 seconds to play, Manneh tried to retrieve the ball. Bendik placed a hand in front of his chest, grabbing Manneh's shirt, and preventing him from reaching the ball.
Manneh freed himself and continued towards the ball, but Bendik followed after him, grabbing his left arm, and pinning him between the netting and the 6'3" goalkeeper. Manneh couldn't even sand up properly.
As Manneh tried to force his way up, he hit his head against Bendik's chest, and slapped him across the face with the back of his hand. The goalkeeper immediately backed off and pointed to his cheek, informing the referee that he had been struck as if he had nothing wrong. Mezquida had collected the ball in the meantime.
Manneh, Bendik, Mezquida, and the referee were involved in a heat discussion, when Dwayne De Rosario punched Manneh in the right cheek, sending him flying. At this point, Mark Bloom and Doneil Henry got involved, with Bloom pushing Manneh away, and Henry pulling De Rosario away by grabbing the back of his shorts.
Manneh received a yellow card for striking Bendik and De Rosario was given one of his own for striking Manneh. Bendik, the instigator of the whole affair, did not receive a caution.
With a goal, two yellow cards, and at least a 30 second delay in stoppage time, the referee generously added nine seconds to the clock.
Vancouver will remain in Toronto before heading to Colombus for their match on Saturday, while Toronto have a week to prepare for next Wednesday's match at BC Place.