Draw keeps TFC's hopes alive

Toronto FC's Dwayne de Rosario fights for the ball with C D Motagua's Guillermo Diaz....

Toronto FC's Dwayne de Rosario fights for the ball with C D Motagua's Guillermo Diaz. (REUTERS/Edgard Garrido)

GARETH WHEELER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:06 AM ET

Qualifying for the group stage of the CONCACAF Champions League was one of Toronto FC's three goals for the 2010 campaign.

The dream for all three is still alive.

A double by former TFC midfielder Amado Guevara wasn't enough for Honduran side Motagua, with TFC surviving an onslaught of pressure to draw the hosts 2-2 in a Thriller in Tegucigalpa. The score-line gave TFC a 3-2 victory on aggregate in the home-and-home tie, advancing Toronto to the final 16.

It was a game of poor defending and sloppy play by Toronto. But more important than TFC's deficiencies was their workmanlike effort, fighting back from being down 1-0 and 2-1.

It was Captain Dwayne De Rosario coming to the rescue as per usual.

Down 1-0 in the 59th minute and always looking second best, De Rosario played a 1-2 with substitute Maicon Santos, finishing his run up the middle magnificently to slot home the game's equalizer into the bottom right corner, putting TFC ahead on aggregate.

The goal was typical De Rosario: an advantageous marker coming against the run of play. The goal also meant the Hondurans had to score twice in the final half-hour to advance.

And Motagua looked full marks for a comeback minutes later. In the 64th minute, Guevara found space at the top of the box, turning and firing into the top-left corner for his second of the match.

Motagua, needing just a goal to advance, introduced striker Shannon Welcome to the proceedings. And the substitution almost paid immediate dividends.

In the 72nd minute, Welcome was sent in 10-yards clear of any TFC defender down the right hand side. Welcome wasted the golden goal-scoring opportunity, firing into the side of Stefan Frei's net.

After a constant stream of Motagua pressure and wasted scoring chances, TFC striker Chad Barrett settled in the proceedings in the 79th minute. Barrett picked up the ball 30 yards out and rumbled

through the Motagua backline, getting the benefit of the ball coming off a defenders foot on his effort, finding the right corner.

The relief TFC had survived not only a hectic game and travel schedule, as well as a poor defensive performance was palpable, written all over the players faces.

It all started hastily on a wet and humid night in the Honduran Capital. For all the credit Preki will receive for his decision to rest De Rosario and Barrett for most of Saturday's game in Kansas City paying off, he'll rightly be criticized for starting 17-year old TFC Academy defender Doneil Henry.

The Mississauga native impressed in a friendly against EPL's Bolton Wanderers last month. But the high-pressured stage of a decisive away match in Central America always seemed the wrong place for Preki to turn to a player short on experience.

Perhaps it speaks more to his lack of trust in Eastern European imports Maksim Usanov and Raivis Hscanovics. A defensive formation with Dan Gargan at outside right midfield stated Preki's intentions to defend their slim one-goal advantage at all costs. And if the formation didn't make that clear, the first five minutes of play falling deep defensively showed a fatigued Toronto side would be content soaking up pressure.

But Motagua did their homework. The way to beat TFC is on the wings, taking advantage of Toronto's lack of width. After switching the ball with precision and little pushback in the opening minutes, the breakthrough came from a familiar face.

Guevara, who's checkered past with Preki while at Chivas has been well documented, found space in front of Henry at the back post, burying the opener and throwing the tie into doubt. Henry wasn't the only culprit on the play. Adrian Cann was far too slow getting out to pressure Mauricio Weber, who had all the time he needed to set up Guevara.

If this moment didn't throw Henry's inclusion into question, it certainly was in the 17th minute. A relatively innocent crossover by Emilio Izaguirre undressed Henry. The youngster was saved face with Izaguirre wasting the goal scoring opportunity shooting high and wide.

Surely better days are ahead for the young Canadian. After 31 minutes of being turned inside out by Izaguirre, Preki ended Henry's misery, replacing the defender with a striker in Santos, showing a clear change in tactics.

The tactics different, but the results were similar, with TFC fortunate not to concede, with Guevara, Izuguirre and Charles Cordoba all failing to finish.

And the second half brought more of the same.

Stefan Frei came to the rescue of some more sloppy defending in the 46th, diving to his right save a Cordoba effort on goal. And in the 49th, Cordoba made it much easier on Frei, making a meal of the chance after being sent in clear.

De Rosario and Barrett taking advantage where Motagua could not proved decisive.

"I can't say enough about our guys," said De Rosario. "We worked ever so hard in a tough environment."

"Every guy worked for each other," added De Rosario.

The CONCACAF Champions League Group Stage kicks off August 17-19.

Toronto FC joins a group with MLS Champion Real Salt Lake, Panama's CD Arabe Unido, and Mexican qualifier Cruz Azul. The top two teams in each group qualify for the quarterfinal.


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