Dallas Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki was in the house at Pizza Hut Park last night, tweeting earlier in the day that he wanted to see “Brek Shea before he goes to the Bundesliga.” But it was Toronto FC’s Joao Plata, not Shea, who shined brightest in the pivotal CONCACAF Champions League clash between the Hoops and the Reds.
The diminutive Ecuadorian set up Danny Koevermans for the game’s first goal in the 28th minute, then added strikes of his own in the 69th and 81st minutes to ice the match and salvage TFC’s season, sending them to the CCL quarterfinals with a 3-0 win after the club had been eliminated from MLS playoff contention on Oct 1.
Here are the highlights:
FC Dallas—which opened the CCL group-stage by becoming the first MLS club ever to win in Mexico, downing Pumas 1-0 in Mexico City—needed only a draw last night to advance to the quarters. They got some promising forays from Nowitzki’s boy Shea, as well as from Jackson, and Honduran speedster Marvin Chavez, but it was Toronto’s, and Plata’s, night.
TFC joins MLS side Seattle Sounders FC in the CCL quarterfinals, which begin next March.
The Colorado Rapids face Santos Laguna in Mexico tonight (8:00 pm ET, Fox Soccer) with a chance of advancing, and the Los Angeles Galaxy take on Motagua in Honduras on Thursday (10:00 pm ET, Fox Soccer). Wins for both U.S. clubs would put four MLS sides in the CCL quarterfinals.
The Rapids are sending a mixture of reserves and starters to Santos Laguna, a club that routed Colorado 4-1 in their previous CCL meeting.
Midfielders Pablo Mastroeni, Jamie Smith, and Brian Mullan will miss the match, along with defender Tyrone Marshall and first-choice keeper Matt Pickens. Mastroeni (concussion) and Smith (calf) are injured; the other three are being rested for the Rapids’ MLS season finale against Vancouver on Saturday.
Los Angeles’s opponent, Motagua, is already eliminated from the competition, having lost all five of their group-stage games. The Galaxy are sending both David Beckham and Landon Donovan down to Honduras for the game (Robbie Keane is out with a groin strain)—though Donovan (quadriceps) said it will be a gametime decision for him as to whether to play or not.