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Odd free kick puts Toronto behind 8-ball

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Alan Pulido’s 72nd minute free kick goal has Toronto FC behind the 8-ball after conceding a pair of away goals to Chivas Guadalajara as part of a 2-1 loss in the CONCACAF Champions League Final first leg at BMO Field.

Rodolfo Pizarro put Chivas up in the second minute, with Jonathan Osorio equalizing before halftime for TFC.

Chivas hosts the second leg at 9:45 p.m. ET on April 25. Toronto will need a two-goal win, a 2-1 win, or a one-goal win with more than three goals scored at Estadio Chivas.

[ PL PREVIEW: Bournemouth-Man Utd ]

Chivas scored in the second minute, Pizarro taking advantage of poor defending from TFC and worse marking from Auro to convert an Isaac Brizuela pass into an early goal.

Toronto leveled the score through its veteran home town hero, the 25-year-old sliding onto the back post cross of Marky Delgado after Sebastian Giovinco dribbled to find Jozy Altidore.

Chivas almost saw a vintage Giovinco free kick goal, but Miguel Jiménez flew to make a two-handed parry of the Italian’s swooping effort.

Delgado got a pretty pass from Giovinco but was pressured into sailing a shot over the bar as the second half began at BMO.

TFC backstop Alex Bono made a massive save when Orbelin Pineda left Michael Bradley for dead and lashed a shot toward the far post.

Giovinco had another free kick from a promising distance that seemed too far, and had it bounce in front of Jimenez leading to a corner kick.

Drew Moor won another corner with a side-footed effort while holding off a defender, as TFC pushed for a goal that could make all the difference in the tie.

Chivas seemingly needed something special to beat Bono a second time, and it kinda got it when the Syracuse product made a mistake on a whirling Pulido free kick from almost corner kick distance.

Giovinco was somehow denied a penalty kick when he was dragged down in the box with just under 15 minutes to play, and the diminutive superstar saw a dragged shot slapped wide of the goal by Jimenez.

Toronto FC to meet Chivas in CCL Final

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Jonathan Osorio’s early goal gave Toronto FC insurance, and Alex Bono made sure it wasn’t needed as the Reds drew Club America 1-1 at Azteca Stadium to beat the Liga MX powers 4-2 over two legs, to advance to the CONCACAF Champions League Final.

The MLS champions and manager Greg Vanney will face Chivas Guadalajara home and away between April 17-19 and April 24-26.

The first leg will be at BMO Field in Canada, and the winner will advance to the Club World Cup in the United Arab Emirates this December 12-22.

[ MORE: Dominant RBNY falls to Chivas ]

Osorio, 26, has been with TFC since 2013, and this was his 176th appearance for the club. Club America scored via stoppage time penalty kick, with Andres Uribe converting the chance.

TFC is just the third MLS team to make a final in the CCL era, and the first since Montreal in 2015.

America has seven CCL titles, the most of any team.

This was a bad sign, an injury to Jozy Altidore:

This was a much better one: Osorio netting an away goal that demanded Club America find three goals or more over the final 78 minutes.

Club America looked like a TFC own goal would put it on the board, but offside was given against the Liga MX powers.

Bono was very, very good.

CCL: TFC holds lead against America, Red Bulls seeking turnaround

Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP
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Tuesday night could prove to be a historic one for MLS, but the two clubs representing the league need to finish their business.

The storylines have been drawn out. The task is simple for both Toronto FC and the New York Red Bulls. Earn a victory (or in TFC’s case a draw or 1-0 defeat) and the two sides will be on a collision course in the CONCACAF Champions League final.

[ MORE: How will Man City, Liverpool line up on Tuesday? ]

TFC played its first match against Club America brilliantly, and Greg Vanney and his team came away with a 3-1 win that has the reigning MLS Cup champions in the perfect situation as they head to Mexico for the return leg.

Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore continue to play at a high level in the tournament, with the attacking duo having combined for five goals in as many CCL matches.

Meanwhile, the Red Bulls have a bit more challenging task, although far from impossible, as they aim to overcome a 1-0 defeat last week to Chivas in Guadalajara.

Jesse Marsch’s Red Bulls have conceded just three goals in five CCL matches this season, giving the home side on Tuesday a distinct advantage when coupling its defensive prowess with the fact that they boast one of the best goalscorers in the competition with Bradley Wright-Phillips.

Also, Chivas will be at a disadvantage after captain Jair Pereira was suspended by CONCACAF over the weekend for violent misconduct late in the first leg.

CCL: Toronto FC takes 3-1 lead over Club America

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The CONCACAF Champions League delivered on the day’s UEFA predecessors, with Toronto FC and Club America providing thrills and outstanding goals on Tuesday.

The semifinal first leg saw Toronto FC seize a two-goal advantage at a cold, sloppy BMO Field, boasting a 3-1 win ahead of the April 10 second leg at Estadio Azteca.

[ RECAPS: Juve-Real | Sevilla-Bayern ]

Sebastian Giovinco had a goal and an assist, Marky Delgado had two assists, while Jozy Altidore and Ashtone Morgan also scored for the hosts.

TFC went ahead early, with Sebastian Giovinco earning and converting a penalty kick in the ninth minute, but saw momentum halted by a mazy dribble from Andres Ibarguen. The diminutive Colombian winger took Michael Bradley twice before belting this shot past Alex Bono to make it 1-1 in the 21st minute.

Yet two of Toronto’s outstanding DPs teamed up to restore the Reds’ lead heading into halftime. Look at this ball from Giovinco to Altidore.

Being a Toronto playoff game, the event couldn’t be complete without tunnel drama. Plenty of arbiters were needed to separate several America and TFC players heading into the locker rooms a la Kljestan v. Altidore 2017.

The 58th minute saw TFC pick up what will feel like a comfort to many Canadians: a third goal. Ashtone Morgan burst into the 18 to reach a ball that was set to just miss Altidore.

Those who regularly criticize MLS will do well to witness this team goal.

MLS wrap: Friedel, Vancouver in focus; More Zlatan thoughts

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We’re fairly positive you heard at least one Major League Soccer score from this weekend.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic took his status as a living legend to our shores, and came off the bench to make an instant impact on debut in the LA Galaxy’s thrilling 4-3 win over LAFC on Saturday.

[ MORE: Arsenal beats Stoke ]

Ibrahimovic scored a wild shot off a bounce from almost 40 yards before heading in the winner as the Galaxy rallied back from a 3-0 deficit in the first “El Trafico.”

“I saw the goalkeeper he was out and I said I will shoot it over, but it was all depending how do I shoot, do I shoot high or in front to put power on it,” Ibrahimovic said. “I chose the power way and it went in. Then the adrenaline starts, you start, and you don’t want it to finish. You take off your shirt and you just want to celebrate with the fans. You want to feel the energy that is going through the stadium. If I would have more strength, I would have run all over the pitch, but I just managed one side of the field.”

A couple other thoughts on the game, and Zlatan:

— The next time someone tells you that MLS, or any league brand, needs players more than names, ask yourself if the league would be better served if Saturday’s meter would have moved with “random 20-year-old South American or European prospects” had the same performances as Carlos Vela and Ibrahimovic. If you said yes, well, enjoy making “Use Your Illusion III.”

Bob Bradley, likely the most impressive American-born manager in history, has had enough of Zlatan. The LAFC boss oversaw Saturday’s come-from-ahead loss as well as a 3-1 loss to Manchester United as Swansea boss which included a brace from the Big Swede. Four goals in about 113 minutes. Woof.

— In our rush to call it the “best game in MLS history,” please don’t forget David Beckham’s first start, which finished three goals off his set pieces and markers from a 17-year-old Jozy Altidore in addition to Landon Donovan, a bullet from Clint Mathis, Edson Buddle, and Juan Pablo Angel:

Some other things we learned on Saturday (and Friday).

— Toronto is going to be fine. The Reds have a huge CONCACAF Champions League match looming at midweek, and still battered Real Salt Lake 3-1 at BMO Field. Of course they should usually handle their business, like most good MLS teams, when a team travels across a continent as they did Friday. But off an 0-2 league start, surely seeing two goals from Jozy Altidore — and 12 combined shots from the USMNT striker and Sebastian Giovinco — feels good.

— The only match Brad Friedel has lost as New England Revolution boss was his opener, and that saw the Revs go two men down. If Friedel and I were friends, I’d like to think I’d call him “Frieds.”

“Frieds,” I’d say, “Looks like I was wrong about you being able to find the talent in that bunch and do well as a first year manager.”

That’s because New England is now 2-1-1 after beating Houston 2-0, albeit up a man for most of the match. Keep an eye on a manager the league would love to trumpet with more success.

— Orlando City and the New York Red Bulls staged a 4-3 wonder in Florida, but you can be happy you weren’t watching live to see the officials send soccer back 20 years by not calling Dom Dwyer for his rugby style stiff arm of Luis Robles in scoring off a corner. You have to feel for the video editor here, because the below highlight is state-run TV level funny. Imagine trying to build a lifelong fan out of someone who’s watched any other high level soccer in his life when this happens to their team:

— There’s a reason Carl Robinson is still in charge over in British Columbia, and the Vancouver Whitecaps‘ 2-1 win in Columbus show just why. The Crew are a tight, thriving unit, but Robinson’s men didn’t flinch when Gyasi Zardes put them down a goal. Well-utilized Brek Shea continued a productive start to the season with an equalizer, and Federico Higuain’s old pal Kei Kamara gave the ‘Caps all three points level with Sporting KC for first in the West.

— Speaking of Sporting, KC scored a third minute goal and a welcomed clean sheet in moving to 3-1-1 with a win over Ben Olsen’s DC United. Goal scorer Felipe Gutierrez might be the league’s top performer over the first month of the season. After failing to score in KC’s season-opening loss, he has five goals in five games.

— It was another big name veteran who starred for Chicago Fire and kept Gio Savarese from a win as Portland Timbers manager. Bastian Schweinsteiger set-up goals from Nemanja Nikolic and Brandon Vincent in a 2-2 tie at Toyota Park in Illinois.

— No snow globe this time around, and no real goals in Atlanta United‘s win at Minnesota United. An own goal hurts, but the Loons are looking much better in Year Two of MLS.

— It’s going to take San Jose some time to become a consistent side under Mikael Stahre, with a number of new pieces playing a new system, but there’s some encouragement in scoring early and sticking with dangerous NYCFC before falling 2-1. Most importantly, and we’ve said this before, Stahre has unleashed Valeri Qazaishvili, who recorded seven more shots as the West Coast, younger, poor man’s Sebastian Giovinco.

— Colorado Rapids handled their business again under head coach Anthony Hudson, with Dominique Badji bagging a hat trick in a 3-0 win over visiting Philadelphia. Tim Howard made four saves for the Rapids, who were outshot at home to spite the score line.

— Three games, three red cards for Seattle. This one helped them lose 1-0 to a Jeisson Vargas goal in Montreal.