Having crossed “win an MLS Cup” off their to-do list this past fall, David Beckham, Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane and the LA Galaxy turned their focus to the CONCACAF Champions League as the 2012 season approached.
Winning that competition would be an MLS first and constitute the next frontier for a club with lofty aspirations. A CCL crown would raise the international profile of the franchise and put the Galaxy in the FIFA Club World Cup, where LA could compete against some of the biggest sides in the world.
Last night, those visions of greater glory evaporated in the air of the Home Depot Center as Toronto FC, a team that has never qualified for the MLS playoffs in five years of existence, eliminated the Galaxy with a 2-1 victory. The win, behind goals from Ryan Johnson and Nick Soolsma, sealed a 4-3 aggregate triumph for the Reds and made them the first Canadian side ever to reach the semifinals of the CCL.
Johnson opened the scoring just after the half-hour mark, beating rookie Galaxy defender Tommy Myer to Soolsma’s cross at the far post and heading the ball back across Josh Saunders’ goal and into the side netting.
Los Angeles replied ten minutes into the second half when Toronto defender Ty Harden turned Donovan’s cross, which was bound for an onrushing Keane, into his own net. But Toronto found the winner in the 67th minute, when Johnson beat Myer again, on the left flank, and crossed for Soolsma at the top of the six-yard box.
Keane failed to finish two clear second-half chances to tie the game.
Toronto will face Mexican side Santos Laguna in the two-leg semifinal on March 28 and April 4.
Santos Laguna entered their second leg against Seattle trailing 2-1 on aggregate, but made quick work of erasing that deficit in the 90-degree confines of Estadio Corona. The hosts bagged two goals in the first 10 minutes of the second leg to take a 3-2 aggregate lead.
When Seattle’s Fredy Montero found Alvaro Fernandez at the back post to make it 2-1 (and 3-3 on aggregate) it looked like we were in for a sizzling second half.
We were, except that it was all one-way traffic. Former Sounder and 2010 U.S. World Cup veteran Herculez Gomez scored for the hosts five minutes after the break, and added a second in the 68th minute to blow the game open. Gomez has seven goals in his last five games.
Santos would add two more as Seattle pushed forward to try make up the aggregate deficit. When the final whistle blew, it was 6-1 Santos and 7-3 in the aggregate.