[CONCACAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE] With two of Toronto FC’s foreign forwards sidelined by injuries, another pair of imports scored the goals by which the Canadian MLS entry beat Mexican club Cruz Azul, 2-1, to open group play in the Concacaf Champions League Tuesday at BMO Field.
Martin Saric (a native of Argentina) headed home in the opening minutes and Mista (Spain) drove a shot into the bottom corner just before halftime to offset the losses of U.S. striker Chad Barrett and Brazilian forward Maicon Santos.
Halftime sub Christian Gimenez pulled a goal back for Cruz Azul in the 89th minute but TFC held on for a 2-1 victory in its first of six group matches.
Saric scored after a nice buildup of passes created a chance for Mista, whose saved shot floated for him to nod past Cementeros goalkeeper Yosgart Gutierrez. TFC rolled with the momentum and threatened several times before Raivis Hscanovics centered a ball from the left flank that Mista fired low from the penalty arc. Gutierrez’s dive got his gloves to the ball but it squirted through them and into the net off the base of the goalpost.
Ten minutes into the second half, Gimenez hit a blistering shot that TFC keeper Jon Conway deflected with a spectacular dive. Playing in place of regular starter Stefan Frei, Conway did the business until the final minute of regulation. Screened by his defensive wall, Conway couldn’t reach Gimenez’s dipping free kick that hit the post on its way into the net.
At the final whistle, a joyful crowd saluted TFC, which took advantage of a rather unprepared opponent that hadn’t conceded a goal against MLS opposition (D.C. United and Columbus) in Concacaf play.
Before the match, Cruz Azul players expressed concerns about playing on artificial turf ... which had been ripped out and replaced with grass during the offseason.
After a home league match against New York on Saturday, TFC resumes Champions League play next Thursday in Panama City against Árabe Unido.
Aug. 17 in Toronto
Toronto FC 2, Cruz Azul 1. Goals: Saric 3, Mista 44; Gimenez 90.
Toronto FC -- Conway, Usanov, Cann, Attakora, Hscanovics, LaBrocca, de Guzman, Saric (Peterson, 65), De Rosario, Mista (Nane, 67), White (Ibrahim, 78).
Cruz Azul -- Y.Gutierrez, Pinto, Dominguez, Cervantes, Castro, Pineda (Torrado, 46), H.Gutierrez (Orozco, 63), Villaluz, Villa, Vela (Gimenez, 46), Biancucchi.
Monterrey 1 Saprissa 0.
MON -- Aldo De Negris 25
Puerto Rico Islanders 1 Olimpia 1.
PRI -- Nicolas Addlery 40
OLI -- Mauricio Copete 58