MLS- Toronto FC

TFC tie Santos Laguna in CCL semifinal opener

TFCSantos (Getty)

Santos Laguna, the highest-scoring team in Mexico was expected to demolish Toronto FC in their CONCACAF Champions League semifinal series. If that is going to happen, Santos will have to do the demolishing down in Mexico.

Toronto FC put on an inspiring performance to battle the top team in Mexico to a stalemate, as the sides played to a 1-1 draw in Toronto on Wednesday night.

American striker Herculez Gomez continued his torrid scoring pace, notching his ninth goal in seven matches, but TFC's Miguel Aceval delivered an equalizing free kick to send the teams into the second leg of their semifinal series even.

Despite playing without defensive leader Torsten Frings, TFC was able to limit Santos' chances until Gomez struck first off a pass from Darwin Quintero to open the scoring and mark his seventh straight match with a goal.

Aceval responded just seven minutes later with a well-struck free kick that beat Santos goalkeeper Osvaldo Sanchez. TFC had several other chances to score, but never did find a go-ahead goal.

The end of the match was marred by a pair of Santos Laguna red cards, including one to Quintero at the end of the match. Santos defender Osmar Mares was ejected for a 77th-minute challenge on Richard Eckersley. Quintero was shown red after the final whistle for a clash with TFC defender Ashtone Morgan.

The teams face off in the second leg on April 4 in Torreon, where Santos will be heavily favored. The Mexican club went into its second leg against the Seattle Sounders trailing 2-1 after the first leg in the quarterfinals, only to run out to a 6-1 victory in Torreon.

TFC has enjoyed road success in the Champions League as well, eliminating the LA Galaxy with a win at Home Depot Center in their quarterfinal match-up.

TFC will be without striker Danny Koevermans, who drew a yellow card in the match that will force him to sit out the second leg.

Here are the match highlights:


What did you think of the match? Impressed with TFC? Think the Canadian club has a chance in the return leg in Mexico? Hoping Gomez can parlay his hot streak into another U.S. national team call-up?

Share your thoughts below.

  • The Dude

    Any chance that Frings makes it? TFC is gonna have to play out of their freakin’ minds to win this game.


  • CSD

    If TFC can keep their defensive shape and keep some possession I think they have a chance to make it interesting next week. If they let in an early goal it could turn into a disaster quickly. With Koevermans out they won’t be tempted to just lob balls forward which might work out well for them.


  • CSD

    I want them to go to the club World Cup and not win a single game this season in MLS. That would be cool…


  • Bob Dole

    They just need to defend all hands on deck.. No need to throw too many numbers forward as santos will punish you. If they can nick one on a set piece, then they have a shot at this thing. The other thing is the bench clearing brawl at the end of the game works in TFC’s favor, IMO… Anything you can do to get them off their game.


  • Steve

    I agree with that. I think Santos expected Toronto to lie down and give them the game, and when that didn’t happen, they got frustrated, hence the 2 red cards. Because of that, Santos could be off their game and come out with something to prove, which could either mean TFC is destroyed within the first 20 minutes, or that Santos will make mistakes and give us a shot at it. We’ll have to see, TFC is still the obvious underdogs (by quite the margin) but hey, who knows what can happen.


  • Matt C in Tampa

    Can anyone explain what happened surrounding the red card at the very end of the match. Not shown on replays anywhere. With the reaction of the TFC keeper, it appears tha Santos player must have decked a TFC player. It further appears that the AR is the one who spotted the event.

    Love it when dirty players and cheap shots get caught.


  • True North

    On the radio this morning I heard Julian DeGuzman say he saw the Santos player headbutt Ashtone Morgan–hence the red card and subsequent scrum.


  • Rich in DC

    Santos not having Quintero is a big loss for Santos, he has been a dangerous player throughout the tournament and he is a player that has provided good service to Hercules Gomez who may or may not be able to play the second leg of the tie. It will depend on the status of his injury that forced him to be subbed off the last night.


  • TiVo

    Santos are classless. The headbutt on Morgan was awful. Morgan had a bg bump on he head after the game. Then Quintero goes down himself even tho he hit Morgn after the play. I’m proud of TFC . They could have on 3-1 with some luck.


  • Mark H

    I’m under no illusions the difficulty of the task for TFC next week. The Sounders are arguably a better team and they got battered in Mexico.

    There needs to be credit given to TFC though. After two awful displays in the MLS the team defended with a pack mentality often not allowing the Mexicans any time to set up and very few quality chances and looked far more dangerous going forward. Part of that may stem from the fact that Santos Laguna, like pretty much every poster on this blog since TFC knocked off the Galaxy, figured Toronto was going to roll over and go away quietly.

    That being said, the TFC game plan was solid, the players to a man put in strong performance getting players behind the ball and then looking dangerous on the counter attack. It made for quite an entertaining game. My hope as a supporter is that Toronto puts in the same committed effort and come out of next week’s game with more positives than negatives.

    I also want to address the whole idea that it would be a conundrum for MLS if Toronto was the first ever team from the MLS to represent the league at the World Club Championships. First of all, its rather presumptuous that the winner of this tie would even make it considering the quality of the two Mexican sides potentially waiting in the final. But playing the assumption game, I think it wouldn’t be a conundrum at all for the league rather it would be a victory for the way the league has gone about its business in the last few years that a profitable expansion era team with strong ownership and a rabid fanbase beat two top Mexican sides to win our continental competition. The only conundrum would be for American fans who view the Canadian MLS teams as somehow not equal to their American counterparts.


  • 2tone

    No way a Mexican team playing dirty. Anyways at least Gomez is a honorable player. Good result for TFC, but it’s going to be hard for them to pull out a win in Santos. even if santos doesn’t score a goal they are through by virtue of their away goal. If it stays tied. I don’t think TFC will have enough offensive thrusto get a goal.


  • dude

    have we not learned from the past bunkering in Mexico for 90 minutes is not going to work. by the 70th minute the defense will collapse. And going to toe to toe with them down there is also not an option due to the lack of quality passing MLS teams have.

    toronto needs to defend and counter defend and counter all game and hope to get one.

    but the way Santos plays at home i expect this to be a 6-0 thrashing


  • martin

    What a classless display from start to finish from Santos Laguna. I have never seen such pandering to the referee for calls in all my life. If anyone has any questions about the first red card, this is all you need to see

    I’ll say this to all the Santos Laguna apologists, if you’re that good how come you need home field to beat us? It’s all even and now you have to prove you’re better.


  • lilly

    Luv it how the Santos coach ripped on CONCACAF for bringing in an “American ref”to officiate an American team against Santos.


  • Brit

    Can’t decide if CONCACAF’s highlight background music is so bad it’s good… or just bad.


  • WK

    I saw that- unbelievably dirty play. If it were the EPL he’d be suspended for multiple games.


  • Soro

    DeGuzman was a beast out there with Frings absent. He’ll need to do that again. Hopefully Cann can get back in to solidify the back line.


  • mlser

    Its amazing people like you keep on making these comments…You would think you would have stopped by now after the L.A series. No, I’m certainly not saying Toronto will win in Mexico, but give credit where credit is due.


  • Soro

    ….. named Ricardo Salazar. If his name was Pierre Tabernac they might have had a valid complaint.


  • Rich in DC

    He is a referee in MLS is what he was trying to say. He thought the ref should be from a league outside of the US and Mexico.


  • Clark

    You haven’t watched Barcelona play much if you think that was pandering the ref.


  • BetaMale

    I can comfortably say that there’s no concern of TFC becoming the first MLS representative in the Club World Cup.

    I would (and probably should) bet my entire life savings on this.


  • Judging Amy

    If my team just put on that awful display of sportsmanship and unmanly cowardice I would be apologizing not whining about calls. Mexican coaches reflect the excuse-making of their whole soccer culture.


  • Ricky B. Free

    I am sorry to say this but you have no idea what you are talking about. Hercules Gomez began to play when Quintero was sidelined because of injury, was Quintero making passes from the training room or something?

    Santos will play Gomez in the wing and Pereira as the lone striker.


  • Gnarls

    I was rooting for TFC, but Salazar should not have reffed the game. If the tables were turned – hypothetically – we would be crying foul as well.


  • daniel

    Like always, if the tables are turned there is an excuse. I wonder who’s decision was it to put an MLS ref.


  • KokoTheGorillaWillFUUp

    I hope every TFC player read Gomez’s post-game warning. TFC needs to come out like savages at Torreon. Nothing less will do. Just dont get a red. TFC are kind of sneaky devils. They can pull it off. But yeah, the Mexicans were robbed in Canada last night. It should happen more, to sort of offset the expected robbing of a goal or two American club teams know will happen when they go south of the border.


  • KokoTheGorillaWill-FU-Up

    i hate it when footie sites sanitize themselves by not including clips of scuffles. i also hate tampa, but thats another matter. hey, at least tfc wont be facing darwin, now if only gomez could get ejected or get a small injury during practice. just a small one, not enough to hinder his presence on the national team.


  • KokoTheGorillaWill-FU-Up

    Santos are a classy team with one thug, dont get your panties all in a bunch. I mean, we’re not talking about the Gary Smith era Rapids here.


  • nope

    Yeah, do it. I’m sure your dime-store analysis adds up to about 50 cents in life savings.


  • Matt

    Way too many missed chances for TFC, now they lose Koevermanns. They had the opportunities to be up 4-1 right now.


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