CCL: Late LA Equalizer Costs Toronto
It only took 20 minutes for Toronto FC to put LA Galaxy in a position they had rarely experienced in their 2011 MLS Cup-winning campaign: On the wrong side of a two-goal differential.
Ryan Johnson and Luis Silva put away two confident strikes to give the hosts a commanding lead over the tournament favorites before a boisterous crowd of 47,568 at Rogers Centre last evening. The lead poised Toronto to head into next week’s away leg with firm control over their future.
But Los Angeles had other plans and would narrow the lead a little over ten minutes later from a Mike Magee finish. The visitors would equalize the score in the match’s dying minutes after Landon Donovan slotted home a loose ball left in the penalty area after a David Beckham corner kick.
While a tie on paper, the match puts Toronto at a slight disadvantage heading into the second leg next Wednesday at Home Depot Center: the visitors need an outright victory or a 3-goal (or better) tie to automatically advance in the tournament. Los Angeles can automatically advance on a win or a 1-goal (or less) tie.
Next week’s matchup will see a change of venue quality along with atmosphere. Last night’s event was hosted at Rogers Center due to weather concerns and featured a pitch less-than-ideal for television viewing, let alone soccer. Throughout the evening players on both teams stumbled, tripped and lost balls that would have otherwise been theirs had the game been played on a higher-quality surface. Next week’s fixture will be played at Galaxy’s Home Depot Center, a natural grass surface situated in the warmer climes of Southern California.
The large Toronto crowd also created several game-delay incidents upon Galaxy corner kicks, with fans throwing impressive amounts of streamers at the kick-taker (often David Beckham), causing play to come to a standstill while the mess was cleared. On the last corner of the game, the play that ended with Landon Donovan’s equalizer, play was delayed once more as the copious amounts of streamers included a half-full beercan that nearly hit the English star. Toronto event staff appeared to treat the incident with indifference and inaction, much to the chagrin of the television commentators.
Next week’s matchup will be in front of an attendance-capped crowd of 7,500 due to long-standing agreement with the university campus upon which Home Depot Center was built. It is expected that, regardless of crowd size, Galaxy fans in attendance will reciprocate Toronto’s special brand of hospitality on the return leg – but it is hoped that they will omit the unsporting behaviors Toronto fans demonstrated last evening.