The dream is dead.
The most successful run of Toronto FC’s six seasons came to an expected end in Torreon, Mexico on Wednesday night, as the club bowed out of the CONCACAF Champions League with a 6-2 loss to Santos Laguna.
If not for some silly mistakes though, Toronto’s shocking tour through the competition could have extended all the way to the final.
The match began fantastically for the visitors. After the clubs exchanged chances, TFC put some pressure on the Mexicans and after an initial corner kick was denied, the following opportunity came to a wide open Luis Silva. Silva’s shot was miraculously saved off of the line, but it bounced right to Joao Plata, who headed it in, shocking the crowd in the 15th minute.
After Herculez Gomez equalized thanks to a terrible lack of judgment from Miguel Aceval 16 minutes later, Plata stunningly took in a fantastic pass from Nick Soolsma and beat two defenders and the keeper late in the first half.
However, Gomez found the back of the goal again in stoppage time, this time finding space alongside Ty Harden.
For the first 10 minutes of the closing half, TFC remained in control — a 2-2 score would have carried them through on the strength of away goals — but acting captain Julian de Guzman made a costly mistake of his own, challenging instead of backing away and getting a tiny piece of an attacking Santos player just inside the box, resulting in a penalty kick.
Juan Pablo Rodriguez easily converted the 56th-minute gift and when Aceval made another horrid miscue — a handball in the box — Rodriguez happily fired another penalty home.
Somehow, TFC’s defenders fell asleep two minutes later and Oribe Perata scored to extend the lead to 5-2.
To add insult to injury, the hosts added another just prior to the final whistle.
Santos also cleared two potential Toronto goals off of the line.
Toronto FC’s day also started poorly — the club revealed that longtime starting keeper Stefan Frei would be sidelined for four to six months instead of the expected two months, following ankle surgery.
Santos improved to 15-0-1 in CCL play, though for much of the match TFC was the better side.
Toronto was attempting to make the CCL final a year after Real Salt Lake became the first Major League Soccer club to do so.
The Reds had drawn 1-1 with Santos at BMO Field last week after shocking the MLS champion Los Angeles Galaxy earlier in the competition.
Toronto has been unable to taste victory yet in league play, but had been living a charmed existence in the CCL.
A Canadian Championship and two-leg victories over Nicarauga’s Real Esteli, Panama’s Tauro, MLS’ FC Dallas and the Galaxy got TFC to this point.
The slog starts up all over again next month, when TFC opens the 2012 Canadian Championship against Montreal.