CARSON, Calif. – Toronto FC stunned the heavily-favored LA Galaxy, knocking the defending MLS Cup and Supporters’ Shield champions 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.
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 Nick Soolsma back from suspension after the pair had missed the first leg. Soolsma would play an integral part, notching the winning goal midway through the second half after having set up the first.
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 in the first leg, attacker Ryan 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 Galaxy failed to capitalize on their momentum and eventually yielded their second goal of the night, which would prove 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 uncontested 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 final.