Toronto FC advances to Champions League semifinals
After watching his team surrender a tying goal, thoughts of a
second straight wasted lead ran through Ryan Johnson’s mind. Except
this time, Toronto FC had the clock on its side.
Nick Soolsma scored in the 67th minute and also had an assist
and Toronto beat the Los Angeles Galaxy 2-1 on Wednesday night to
advance to the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals.
Johnson scored on a header and set up Soolsma’s goal as Toronto
overcame an own goal to escape with a 4-3 victory in the
total-goals series. The teams tied 2-2 last week in Toronto after
the Galaxy overcame a 2-0 deficit by scoring a late equalizer.
”I was definitely worried because it’s something that happened
to us last year,’ said Johnson, referring to Toronto’s defensive
letdowns. ”But we had plenty of time to get it back.”
Soolsma did just that, putting Toronto ahead by finishing a
first-time cross from Johnson with his left foot.
Toronto will face Mexico’s Santos Laguna in the semifinals.
Santos Laguna routed the Seattle Sounders 6-1 on Wednesday night in
Torreon, Mexico, for a 7-3 aggregate victory.
The MLS champion Galaxy were left searching for answers as they
dropped their second straight game, both coming at home, including
a season-opening 2-1 loss to Real Salt Lake on Saturday
”Something is obviously missing right now,” Galaxy star David
Beckham said. ”It’s not individuals, it’s us as a team.”
While Los Angeles was playing with tired legs, Toronto was
afforded the luxury of getting six days off between games as they
have yet to play their MLS opener.
”We had more time to rest,” Toronto coach Aron Winter said.
”We were completely confident to come in here and get a win.”
The Galaxy, needing a win or low-scoring draw to advance, looked
to be in position to do so when Toronto defender Ty Harden went
sliding in the box and pushed the ball into the back of his own net
to level the score at 1 in the 55th.
That would stand as the Galaxy’s only goal despite an abundance
of good runs, giving way to promising chances that were wasted.
”We were dangerous for 90 minutes,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena
said. `We just didn’t convert.”
Toronto capitalized on its best scoring opportunity in the
opening half. Soolsma played a ball to the back post as Johnson
timed his leap perfectly and headed the ball over defender Tommy
Meyer for the lead 34 minutes in.
Galaxy captain Landon Donovan, who scored the equalizer late in
the first leg, again had a hand in the Galaxy’s tying goal
Wednesday. He pushed the ball up the right sideline and sent a low
cross intended for Robbie Keane that Harden misplayed.
The tie was short-lived as the Galaxy defense broke down a
second time twelve minutes later.
Johnson worked the ball toward the touch line with some nifty
dribbling before turning and playing the ball to Soolsma, who was
left unmarked by Meyer.
Meyer, a rookie out of Indiana, is occupying the spot of Omar
Gonzalez, the reigning MLS defender of the year who is sidelined
with a torn ACL.
”It’s only one player different from last year,” Donovan said.
”But it’s a central part of our team.”
Toronto was on the defensive end for much of the first half as
the Galaxy dictated play. But the club managed to weather the
storm, aided by some errant Galaxy shooting.
Mike Magee got in on goal and had a shot turned aside by
goalkeeper Milos Kocic. Magee tried to capitalize on the loose
ball, but Kocic recovered and deflected a second attempt out of
Johnson’s goal was his second in as many games for the Jamaican
striker, playing his first full season with Toronto after being
acquired in a midseason trade with San Jose. He’s already relishing
the unchartered journey of his club.
”This is something I’ve always personally wanted for Toronto
and the fans since I got here,” he said.