OMG man hugs!
Yes Virginia -- there IS a way for Toronto FC to top that late October Dallas night, and it happened tonight with a victory over the LA Galaxy. Ryan Johnson's strike in the 33rd minute from a lovely Nick Soolsma cross was first cancelled out by a Ty Harden own goal in the 55th, but TFC ended on top thanks to a 67th minute strike from unlikely hero Nick Soolsma, from who else? Johnson.
That was coupled with what TFC could consider astute defence after the Soolsma goal, and Canada will be represented in the CONCACAF Champions League semi-finals for the first time in the tournament's hstory. Never before have a Canadian team made it this far in a CONCACAF club tournament -- and Toronto has done it. I know, let that sink in for a moment.
Milos Kocic...what can we say? He played the game of his life. Granted, he was helped by a few offsides (which were mostly correct, except for that Keane one that from my vantage point looked onside...) and some extremely poor finishing from the Galaxy front lines, but when he needed it, he stood tall...and perhaps sealed his place in the TFC lineup as our #1, especially with Stefan Frei...well, not being Stefan Frei (the one from the first few years)?
Ty Harden...what can we say? Sure picked a very strange time to try to make an impact, but he did and could have cost us the trip. And I'm still sort of comprehending the fact that Soolsma was the hero for us tonight. I'm hoping I am not alone in this one.
Otherwise, the defense was hit and miss, and both Joao Plata and Danny Koevermans were neutralized mostly, while the red headed stepchild of our three DPs Julian de Guzman was again a total wash. But Torsten Frings was allowed to hold the backline, and again did ti very well, which helped contribute to the ultimate victory.
And again, Luis Silva. How many times can we say it, this kid is our future. He was INCHES (and it was close) away from putting the final nail in the coffin -- but the way he got there like a pro, was amazing. Plus, his entire family that was in attendance sought refuge from the partisan crowd amongst our supporters, which made it even cooler.
Overall, it made for an entertaining match. Toronto still needs to learn the art of parking the bus properly AND choosing the CORRECT time to do so, but from what I've heard from the supporters, this win is the sweetest of them all.
The task only gets tougher though -- next up for the TFC is a date with the team that knocked out the (then) USL Montreal Impact during the 2008-09 championship round, Santos Laguna -- the very same team that meticulously took apart the Seattle Sounders 6-1 this evening in Torreon. Aron Winter sounded confident post-game, though, which could mean a number of things.
But let's not spoil the night with what will happen tomorrow...enjoy this victory! but before we wrap this one up, I present to you the second leg version of Golden Trophies/Kick In The Groin:
A Golden Trophy for...the traveling support. They were in fine fettle throughout the match, and even when the tying goal went in, remained one of the more audible voices in the stands. And in turn, they were treated to a historic night: a just reward, no?
A Kick to the Groin for...Ty Harden. At a professional level, own goals are a cardinal sin. Heck, I'm sure that's the case for all levels -- but to give one up when the lead was as brittle as it was, should make it pretty unforgiveable.
A Kick to the Groin for...Bruce Arena. Why, oh why, did you start your first XI when you know you want the same group to play in a continental match four days afterward? The Galaxy's lacklustre performance showed, and while the players have to take some blame, this was NOT Bruce Arena's finest moment.
A Golden Trophy for...the TFC youth. Ashtone Morgan, Milos Kocic, Luis Silva, and company -- when the vets aren't there, these guys have stepped up. Morgan had an meh game (the Galaxy went around the defense way too often...), but for Kocic and Silva, wow.
So there you have it. Seattle this weekend, and then it's two matches with Santos Laguna. Win, and the finals beckon...oh, the places we'd go!