Reds Rocket To CCL Semifinals
CARSON, CA – Toronto FC stunned the heavily favored LA Galaxy, knocking the defending MLS Cup and Supporters’ Shield (league) winners out of the CONCACAF Champions League by a 2-1 score at the Home Depot Center on Wednesday night.
TFC went through on a 4-3 aggregate victory and will face Santos Laguna in the semifinals.
Nick Soolsma and Ryan Johnson each registered a goal and an assist in the historic TFC win.
Despite claims of fatigue and tired legs leading to Saturday’s 3-1 loss to Real Salt Lake, the Galaxy sent out a nearly identical lineup for the third consecutive game. The lone change was in central midfield where Juninho replaced the cup-tied Marcelo Sarvas.
Toronto FC, meanwhile, got Julian de Guzman and Soolsma back from suspension after the pair had missed the first leg.
Video: Match highlights
Neither side took initiative in the early going as the two teams felt each other out for a good portion of the first half, in stark contrast to the first leg when Toronto had scored twice by the 18th minute.
LA appeared to get on the board first when Mike Magee beat the high TFC backline onto a Robbie Keane lob, then chipped the onrushing ‘keeper. The effort was ruled offside, though replays later showed it to be an incorrect call.
That left the door open for the Reds, and they were only too happy to push through.
Just as he did the first leg, attacker Johnson opened the scoring. Soolsma sent a cross from the right flank towards the far post and Johnson out-jumped Tommy Meyer to place a header into the corner of the net, giving TFC a 1-0 lead on the night and 3-2 on aggregate.
The Galaxy earned the equalizer on the other side of halftime. Landon Donovan sprinted past Toronto defender Miguel Aceval down the right flank before crossing to Keane. TFC defender Ty Harden slid to attempt a clearance, but instead sent the ball directly into the back of the net.
The hosts failed to capitalize on their momentum and eventually yielded their second goal of the night, which proved to be the series decider.
This time, it was Johnson who played provider, firing a cross from the left flank to the middle of the box in the 67th minute. Soolsma, making a late run through the middle of the penalty area, got onto the ball unmolested and easily buried it into the back of the net for the 2-1 advantage.
Aside from giving the visitors the lead in the aggregate score, it also gave them a cushion as the Galaxy needed two goals to win the series in regulation.
Keane had a pair of clear looks in the second half, once on a Mike Magee flick and then another on a Donovan slip pass in the 74th minute. Both times Milos Kocic was there to claw the DP striker’s shot away.
Toronto were content to sit back for the final quarter-hour and protect their lead, and nearly got a third two minutes from time when Luis Silva pulled a shot just wide. The Galaxy, meanwhile, pushed numbers forward but were unable to test Kocic.
With both Seattle and the Galaxy bowing out on Wednesday, no American clubs remain alive in the tournament.
Toronto FC, meanwhile, remain as the lone MLS representative. Their home-and-home series with Santos will take place on March 28 and April 4. The winner will advance to the CCL finals.
Toronto - Johnson 34'
Los Angeles - Harden (OG) 55'
Toronto - Soolsma 67'
Toronto - Eckersley 19' (caution)
Los Angeles - Franklin 43' (caution)
Toronto - Aceval 63' (caution)
Toronto - Frings 90+2' (caution)
Los Angeles - Josh Saunders, Todd Dunivan, Sean Franklin (Dan Keat 72'), A.J. DeLaGarza, Tommy Meyer (Chad Barrett 84'), Landon Donovan, David Beckham, Juninho, Mike Magee (Paolo Cardozo 73'), Robbie Keane, Edson Buddle. Substitutes not used: Brian Perk, Hector Jimenez, Andrew Boyens, Michael Stephens.
Toronto - Milos Kocic; Richard Eckersley, Ty Harden, Miguel Aceval, Ashtone Morgan; Torsten Frings, Julian de Guzman (Luis Silva 63'), Ryan Johnson; Nick Soolsma, Danny Koevermans (Aaron Maund 69'), Joao Plata (Terry Dunfield 46'). Substitutes not used: Stefan Frei, Doneil Henry, Matt Stinson, Reggie Lambe.
NOTES: Though an MLS club, Toronto FC can not enter the CONCACAF Champions League through Major League Soccer. Toronto can only enter CCL through the Canadian Championship, which starts May 2 against Montreal in a two-leg series. Toronto will host the return fixture on May 9 ... The winner of Toronto-Montreal will take on Vancouver or Edmonton (of NASL) for the right to represent Canada in the 2012/13 Champions League, regardless of Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver's position in MLS standings.