|Martin Bravo of Mexico's Pumas celebrates his goal against Toronto FC during their game in Mexico City on Wednesday night. (AFP)
TORONTO - A horrendous first half dropped Toronto out of second place in Group C of the CONCACAF Champions League on Wednesday night in Mexico City.
The Reds fell behind Pumas 4-0 before the match hit its midway point and could never recover in a scoreless second half.
TFC was outshot 20-3, 11-2 in terms of shots on target.
Two teams advance from each group and Toronto, 1-2-1, is now behind both FC Dallas (seven points following a home draw with Tauro) and Pumas (four points).
Martin Bravo scored a hat trick for Pumas, which had failed to score a single goal in its two previous games to open the group stage.
Whether it was the humidity or mental lapses, the Reds were unable to stay with Pumasí attackers.
The home side pressed the issue ó constantly firing in balls to chase ó and Toronto showed little ability to retrieve before its hosts.
TFC could have made a game of it had early chances been capitalized on.
Pumas keeper Victor Patino made excellent stops on Danny Koevermans in the 12th minute, and Ryan Johnson in the 19th. Two minutes before Johnsonís near miss, Bravo had opened the scoring after being set up beautifully.
Efrain Velarde made it 2-0 as Pumas broke away after Johnsonís attempt was stopped.
After watching his backline mates Andy Iro, Doneil Henry and Ashtone Morgan struggle earlier, Toronto defender Ty Harden got his turn when Bravo outraced him to put in his second in the 33rd minute.
The Reds were a step behind for most of the first half and were consistently beaten for scoring chances.
Harden was helpless again on the fourth goal, which the Reds insisted was offside, as Bravo completed the hat trick.
Toronto was without sparkplug Joao Plata, who head coach Aron Winter said will miss three weeks with a hamstring injury, starting keeper Stefan Frei who also is injured, suspended defender Richard Eckersley and midfielder Eric Avila, who is not eligible for the CONCACAF competition because he suited up for FC Dallas earlier this season.
Though Kocic had no chance on the goals, the rest of the absent Reds were missed.
Minus its two most creative members in Plata and Avila, the offence stumbled, while Eckersley remains TFCís top defender with Adrian Cann lost for the season.
Toronto must regroup for a home date with the MLS Cup champion Colorado Rapids on Saturday afternoon followed by a key game hosting Tauro on Tuesday.
Pumas is at Toronto on Sept. 27th in what should be a crucial encounter.
It was not a happy anniversary for Reds fans who celebrated heartily exactly one year ago when Day 1 general manager Mo Johnston was dismissed, along with head coach Preki.