TFC wins group stage opener

RYAN WOLSTAT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:38 AM ET

TORONTO - Toronto FC has struggled mightily against Major League Soccer competition this season, but the story has been quite different in other games.

Toronto opened the group stage of the CONCACAF Champions League with a 2-1 victory over Tauro FC in Panama City on Thursday night.

That ran TFC’s record in Canadian championship/CONCACAF play this season to 6-0-1 vs. its 4-11-11 MLS mark.

The result was about what the visitors deserved — they weren’t great, defensive errors were too common and they let Tauro have its way in the second half — but they didn’t get any breaks from the officials and were a bit better than the Panamanians, who made two crucial mistakes

Following strong buildup early by the Reds, a terrible clearing attempt by a Tauro defender allowed Ryan Johnson to get an easy opener. Johnson found completely unattended and made no mistake with the gift in the 21st minute.

Not long after that, Julian de Guzman — the captain with Torsten Frings suspended —got a shot through that keeper Alvario Antonio Anzola really should have stopped in the 37th minute.

De Guzman had only recently scored his first goal for the Reds in more than 40 league games and now has added his second for the club this month.

It proved important as Tauro’s play improved — partly thanks to a foul-happy official who might have been the worst Toronto has had to deal with all season.

Tauro players constantly went down at the slightest provocation, and the official bought in to the trickery hook, line and sinker, calling 22 fouls on Toronto to Tauro’s 10.

De Guzman took down a Tauro player in the 73rd minute and captain Luis Moreno converted the penalty.

TFC saw six players dealt yellow cards and assistant coach Bob de Klerk was booted for arguing the penalty call.

There was also a second Johnson goal that was called back for reasons unknown.

All of the yellows — half of which were probably not deserved — could haunt the team if key players such as Plata, de Guzman or Richard Eckersley end up suspended for important games later in the competition.

Toronto has found itself, since a four-game losing streak lowered spirits late in July.

With a rejigged roster, TFC has now reeled off a season-best six-game unbeaten streak (4-0-2).

The team clearly missed Frings, perhaps its most pivotal player and will be happy to get him back when this competition continues at BMO Field against FC Dallas next week.

Before that, the Reds will take on the Fire in Chicago in league action on Sunday.

Toronto finished off an MLS sweep of South or Central American competition.

On Wednesday, FC Dallas had snapped a 74-year futility skid by a senior North American side in Mexico by beating Pumas UNAM 1-0 in Mexico City.

That followed an L.A. Galaxy win over Motagua of Honduras and Seattle’s 4-1 thumping of Comunicaciones of Guatemala.


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