Toronto FC out of CCL after 1-0 loss
By KURTIS LARSON, QMI Agency
|Herculez Gomez, who had the only goal as Santos Laguna defeated Toronto FC 1-0 in a CONCACAF Champions League game on Oct. 24, 2012. (DAVID BECKER/Getty Images/AFP Files) (Photo taken Aug. 5, 2012)
TORONTO - If only for a moment, Toronto FC looked capable of making an insurmountable deficit manageable Wednesday night.
In need of at least three goals to advance ahead of host Santos Laguna to next year's knockout phase of the CONCACAF Champions League, Toronto FC had chances early and often, squandering multiple opportunities to take a surprise lead in Torreon, Mexico.
Failing to convert a number of sure-bet chances within the opening quarter-hour, with progression already assured late in the second half, Santos' Herculez Gomez scored a screamer with 20 minutes remaining to keep the home side perfect in TFC's three-team group.
Venturing south with an overwhelming number of injuries at the close of what has been a dreadful season, Toronto's Luis Silva put Ryan Johnson in alone on Miguel Becerra six minutes in only to see the Jamaican put his effort too close to Santos' second-choice netminder, who was up to the task.
Toronto's Eric Avila nearly capped off a good spell of ball movement in the 10th minute after receiving a driven cross from Reggie Lambe. Striking the ball first time, Avila's open look from the top of the box was blocked before it reached Becerra, sending Santos on a break the other way.
After Carlos Quintero saw his close-range effort smothered by Toronto's Freddy Hall a minute later, the Reds will wonder what could have been as they continued pouring numbers forward only to come up empty.
Johnson had a second good look a quarter-hour in but failed to redirect Ashtone Morgan's pinpoint service on goal. Then it was Reggie Lambe failing to score from a tight angle after Jeremy Hall's lofted pass beat the entire Santos defence.
The home side's relaxed demeanor changed at the end of the first half as it began to assert its superiority.
Christian Suarez came close to capitalizing on a restart a minute before halftime only to see his curling effort come back off the outside of the near post.
With the needed result all but assured an hour in, Gomez squandered back-to-back chances to bury the Reds. The U.S. international watched his effort from the penalty spot soar over the crossbar before failing to convert an open header minutes later.
Following multiple saves off the line, Santos finally found the goal it was pushing for in the 73rd minute when Gomez connected on a half-volley from the left edge of the penalty area that zipped past a helpless Hall and into the far corner.
As a result of the 1-0 win, Santos Laguna officially qualified for CONCACAF's quarterfinals next March.
Toronto wraps up MLS play Sunday against the Columbus Crew in Ohio.