||1 – 0
F. Hall 56'
||SHOTS ON GOAL||5
I tried to fly in your garden, but you shot me down.
Mama you shot me down on the ground!
I watched the sky above me harden,
And your black gown, your long back funeral gown.
It's a long way coming down, the ladders in your eye.
For a Wednesday in your garden, I think that I would die.
- "A Wednesday In Your Garden", The Guess Who
Well, if you came here expecting to read a recap of a miracle...sadly, it didn't happen. But it came pretty close to happening, given how long a badly undermanned TFC kept Santos Laguna, who needed to not lose by two or more goals to advance, at bay -- but it certainly wasn't as bad as 8-1.
Oh yes, the Reds had their chances, very much like their previous encounter just two months before: TFC with the early chances, Ryan Johnson with a shot saved and a header that went just wide -- much like many of his attempts at goal. Could that have changed the complexion of the task if that had gone in? Perhaps, but at least for once the Reds didn't collapse in the first half, as rare chances kept coming, Reggie Lambe with another close in effort that should have been scored but instead was saved by the Santos keeper.
But again overpowered and outmatched, the chances for Santos were much more dangerous; Darwin Quintero's 44th minute strike pinged the woodwork, which kept the match at zeroes heading into the change. After that, the match simply became a shooting gallery for the Mexican side, but somehow they couldn't convert until Herculez Gomez finally broke through with a golazo with about 17 minutes remaining. That proved to be the bridge that couldn't cross the troubled waters, and for the second time in three seasons, TFC's continental foray ends at the group stages.
Even if Santos wasn't playing with their "A" squad, and the side is only a shadow of itself as it struggles to qualify for the Apertura playoffs (whereas in the spring they were cruising), it once again proves that most MLS teams are simply not at the quality where we are able to beat Mexican teams, or even give them a scare. TFC certainly had their chances, and the scoreline of 1-0 certainly makes it look pretty, but it could just as well have been a repeat of the 6-2 drubbing six months ago, if only the Mexicans had converted their chances, that 37 shots teels the story of the balance of the game.
But what does this mean for TFC? Barring major changes in the playing lineup, this could likely be our last continental foray for a while. The people who brought us to the Estadio Corona in the spring are no sure bets to return, and we're still seeing a third-string keeper being used. But hey, all the problems disappear because we didn't embarrass ourselves like Seattle did when they visited, right? No -- but that's another story for another day.
In the end, this perhaps is a blessing in disguise, a clarion call for us to stop looking towards the world, and start looking closer to home? We have made a name for ourselves in the continental stage; the glow of being only the second MLS semi-finalist in the CCL should be enough for now. It's time to look for more domestic glory, or even domestic respectability, and improve our fortunes there; this loss may be the sign TFC's ship should be sailing for another destination instead, given the format.
We won't need a cold day in Hell before we see the Reds return to this place again, but let's wait until that day happens first before we hope it happens again -- for the sake of the club.