Toronto FC shocks Cruz Azul

RYAN WOLSTAT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:30 AM ET

It is quite possible that no result in Toronto FC’s short history has been as shocking as Tuesday night’s stirring 2-1 victory over Mexican powerhouse Cruz Azul.

The opener of the CONCACAF Champions League group stage will go down as one of the milestone games in the history of this franchise.

It was almost as if the two teams traded jerseys before taking the field.

The Reds stunned one of the strongest — on paper, anyway — opponents it has faced with a goal by Martin Saric in the third minute, controlled the play the bulk of the evening despite a misleading 7-4 shots on goal discrepancy and added another strike — this time by Mista — in the 44th minute.

Even some truly atrocious refereeing and a 90th-minute goal by the visitors off a free kick could not take the wind out of TFC’s sails.

What made Toronto’s performance all the more out of the blue was the fact that Cruz Azul had not conceded a goal against MLS competition in four previous CONCACAF Champions League matches.

But TFC ended that run before many of the 16,862 patrons had even found their seats, when a miss-kick by a Cruz Azul defender ended up caroming off the head of Mista and off the hands of ’keeper Yosgart Gutierrez right to Saric who made no mistake with a header of his own into the top corner.

Cruz Azul showed its first real sign of life in the 41st minute, when Conway had to dive to his left to make a fine save.

But it was the Reds who responded after a bit of rough play with Raivis Hscanovics setting up Mista with a perfect pass for the Spaniard’s first meaningful conversion as a member of TFC.

Toronto defender Adrian Cann was not surprised that things often got testy.

“In a competition like this, everything is on the line,” Cann said. “We’ll do anything it takes.”

With both teams playing league matches this weekend, big guns were rested.

TFC keeper Stefan Frei was the most startling omission. Frei has been the best player for the Reds this season. But with a key match with New York looming, Preki chose to go with the veteran, Conway.

Usual starting defender Nick Garcia also did not dress. The moves turned TFC’s already depleted lineup into a patchwork effort. Strikers Chad Barrett and Maicon Santos sat due to injuries, along with midfielder Amadou Sanyang. But the replacements came through. Defenders Maxsim Usanov and Hscanovics were steady throughout, while Saric — back from injury — was a thorn in Cruz Azul’s side even when not denting the scoresheet.

Flawless

Meanwhile, Conway was flawless in showing his range on several difficult stops before Christian Giminez finally found twine.

Cruz Azul coach Enrique Meza praised the Reds but seemed to allude that his team might have looked past the Canadian squad a little bit.

Cruz Azul sat starting ’keeper Jose De Jesus Corona to start the game, along with captain and Mexican national team captain Gerardo Torrado and scoring star Javier Orozco. Torrado and Orozco both entered in the second half and the play of the visitors picked up noticeably — but not enough to avoid what surely will be treated as a humiliating outcome by the Mexican press.

But for TFC, it was quite the opening statement.

“The league hasn’t done well in this competition and hopefully we can change that,” Conway said.

Tuesday, the MLS side made a pretty significant step in that direction.

ryan.wolstat@sunmedia.ca

ryan.wolstat@sunmedia.ca


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