It’s not all over for Toronto FC, although Aron Winter’s team is squarely up against it now following a 2-2 draw at the absolutely electric Rogers Centre. For a chance to advance into the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals, the Canadian side needs a win or a draw with at least two goals when the series returns next week to Los Angeles.
That’s a tall order, especially considering this: the Galaxy is a master of the low-scoring game. Remind us that score from last year’s MLS final? Oh, yes! That’s right. It was 1-0.
Then again, TFC was up against it last year as group stage finished, going down to Dallas in need of a win to advance into the tournament’s knockout phase. That was different situation as Winter’s men faced (and found that needed “W”) against a tired bunch of Texans. Bruce Arena’s men have no such weariness about them, but the TFC memories of beating the odds last fall can give them some hope, at least.
Meanwhile, here’s what we learned from Wednesday’s quarterfinal.
- All credit to the crowd in Ontario, which gave the match such a nice, lively feel and helped make the Rogers Centre a difficult place to play. But let’s be honest: what really made it a difficult place was that awful artificial turf. It made the game formless and frenetic. A game like that, so hard on the eyes, certainly doesn’t help when it comes to the soccer snobs who complain about Major League Soccer’s flagging quality.
- Everyone knew the Galaxy would surely miss injured center back Omar Gonzalez, who is out for the better part of 2012 while recovering from knee surgery. But who knew the effect would reveal itself so fast? The Galaxy was down two goals within 18 minutes. The home team’s second strike was particularly telling, as TFC rookie Luis Silva was left inexplicably unchallenged to put away Torsten Frings’ cross. That’s just a lack of communication at work, and that’s where Galaxy center back A.J. DeLaGarza simply has to up his game this year, take command and get things sorted quickly during the fluid run of play.
- David Beckham does not like artificial turf. Who does when it comes to professional soccer? But it sure didn’t hurt his restart delivery. Beckham’s zippy free kicks and corner kicks bothered Toronto all night. They were especially effective compared to Frings’ deliveries, lofted softies that Galaxy defenders typically had little trouble dealing with.
- The Galaxy’s dandy DP trio (Beckham, Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane) will be a handful every time out this year. No secret there. But Edson Buddle was imaginative and creative, too. And don’t underestimate Mike Magee, the versatile attacker (and sometimes goalkeeper, if you remember that one from last year!) whose instincts and cagey sense of timing near goal were already at mid-season hum. Magee had the Galaxy’s first goal.
- Winter chose to pull Frings from the midfield, deploying his German veteran along the back line. And he did help create some stability. But only “some.” At other moments, the TFC defense didn’t look much improved over the disheveled lot from 2011. The one, that is, that allowed a league-worst 59 goals.