Toronto FC wins 1st leg of Champions League semifinal

Toronto FC forward Jozy Altidore, left, and Club Amarica defender Edson Alvarez vie for possession during the second half of the first leg in a semifinal of the CONCACAF Champions League soccer tournament Tuesday, April 3, 2018, in Toronto. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

TORONTO (AP) Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore scored first-half goals and Toronto FC beat Mexico’s Club America 3-1 in the CONCACAF Champions League in the first leg of the semifinal on a wet and breezy Tuesday night.

Ashtone Morgan had the other goal for Toronto (3-1-1) before an energetic BMO Field crowd of 23,463.

Andres Ibarguen scored for Club America (3-1-1), which suffered its first loss of the competition.

After a physical opening half, a skirmish reportedly ensued in the tunnel as the two teams left the field for their respective dressing rooms. But when the second half began, both squads had 11 players aside.

That should set up an interesting second leg of the total goals series next Tuesday at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City.

In November, a scuffle broke out at halftime of Toronto FC’s 1-0 home loss to the New York Red Bulls in an Eastern Conference semifinal game at BMO Field. Altidore and New York’s Sacha Kljestan were sent off following the melee.

This marked the first official match between the two teams although they did meet in the preseason as part of Toronto FC’s weeklong training at altitude in Mexico City.

Morgan gave the defending MLS champions a two-goal cushion in the 58th minute, converting a nice setup from Auro Junior.

Club America’s frustration was evident in the 69th minute when Guido Rodriguez angrily threw the ball to the field after receiving a yellow card.

Toronto FC Alexander Bono kept it a two-goal game with a nice stop in the 84th minute.

Giovinco brought the crowd to its feet when he scored on a penalty kick in the ninth minute. He was granted the penalty after being taken down in the box by Club America’s Edson Alvarez.

Giovinco was issued a yellow card six minutes later after the two teams came together following some aggressive tackling by Club America. But Ibarguen made it 1-1 in the 21st minute after some nifty ball-handling.

Altidore put Toronto ahead 2-1 in the 44th minute. After taking Giovinco’s pass, Altidore nicely evaded a Club America defender before blasting a shot past goalkeeper Agustin Marchesin.

Club America is Mexico’s all-time winningest franchise, having captured the Liga MX title 12 times. And it came into Tuesday’s match having outscored its tournament opposition 13-3.

But Toronto FC eliminated defending Liga MX champion Tigres UANL in the quarterfinals. The squad also came into the matchup on a winning note, defeating Real Salt Lake 3-1 on Friday night for their first victory of the MLS season.

Toronto FC isn’t the only MLS squad to reach the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals. The New York Red Bulls host CD Guadalajara, another Mexican side, in their series opener Wednesday night with the second leg also going Tuesday in Mexico.

Toronto FC is in the CONCACAF Champion League semifinal for just the second time in club history. The team did so for the first time in 2011-12, falling to Santos Laguna 7-3 on aggregate.

An MLS team hasn’t won the CONCACAF title since the LA Galaxy 17 years ago. Since then, only two league teams have reached the final, including the Montreal Impact in 2015.