Toronto FC clinches quarterfinal spot
Joao Plata had two goals and an assist and Toronto FC clinched a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals with a 3-0 victory over FC Dallas on Tuesday night.
Danny Koevermans added a goal and Toronto goalkeeper Milos Kocic made two saves for the shutout as Toronto finished with a 3-2-1 record in Group C play.
''I think we played a very good game, we gave nothing away,'' Toronto coach Aron Winter said. ''I'm very proud of the performance of the players on the pitch. It's also a great day for TFC, because it's the first time ever the franchise has qualified for the next round.''
FC Dallas was eliminated after winning its first two matches in group play on the road. FC Dallas lost its past three by a combined score of 10-3 and wound up winless (0-2-1) on its home field.
''For us, it's a shame,'' Dallas coach Schellas Hyndman said. ''We competed a long way, and the way we started out, and tonight I just don't think we were committed to this game as much as they were or as much as we needed to be. We really didn't have a lot of good, quality chances.''
''It's disappointing, very disappointing,'' Dallas defender Ugo Ihemelu said. ''Play all these extra games, get so close to advancing and just have a complete letdown in the final game. It could have been historic. It could have been something really good for the club, so that's really disappointing. This was a great opportunity for us because we were at home.''
The 19-year-old Plata, in his first MLS season after coming over from Ecuador, had three goals and five assists in 30 league matches. He also has four goals in five Champions League games.
''I think that, Plata, of course, he makes two goals, but I think everybody played well,'' Winter said. ''We're a team, we battled, we created a lot of opportunities and gave nothing away. I think that this is a good step for the future.''
Plata's two goals came 12 minutes apart in the second half and broke open a 1-0 game. His first score came off a nice setup from Ryan Johnson in the 69th minute, when he sent a low shot from 12 yards past Dallas goalkeeper Kevin Hartman.
Toronto FC made it 3-0 in the 81st minute when Plata stole the ball from Jackson Goncalves at midfield and raced toward the Dallas goal. He got past George John and Goncalves again before drilling a low shot past the diving Hartman, just inside the right post.
Koevermans scored his second Champions League goal in the 29th minute, after receiving a pass in the middle from Plata, but Dallas' Ricardo Villar blocked his first shot attempt.
The rebound bounced right back to Koevermans and this time his low shot from 5 yards beat a diving Hartman just inside the left post.
''We were completely focused to play this game because everybody noticed the importance of this game,'' Winter said. ''I'm very happy. We have earned it, we battled and fought for it. I think we have done very well.''