The Reds suffered the worst loss an MLS team has ever suffered to a Central American team in the history of the Concacaf Champions League's knockout stage when they opened their 2019 season with a 4-0 loss to Panamanian provincial team CAI, which was making its Concacaf debut.
Just a year ago, the Reds were coming off the first treble in MLS history and reached the 2018 Concacaf Champions League final with the best
performance ever by an MLS team, beating Tigres and Club America, two giants of Mexican soccer, before losing to Guadalajara in the final in a shootout.
Thanks to Toronto FC, MLS and the soccer and the players it was producing earned new respect in Mexico. But now?
All the hard work that TFC put in at Azteca Stadium and the other giant Mexico stadiums a year ago was missing Tuesday when it was unprepared for the challenge of modest CAI at the tiny Estadio Agustin Muquita Sanchez in the Panamanian city of La Chorrera.
"We weren't up for any part of it," said TFC captain Michael Bradley, "so that part is very disappointing."
The Reds lost Sebastian Giovinco, a 2018 Concacaf Best XI selection for his play in the CCL, and Spanish playmaker Victor Vazquez, who was a key contributor in their MLS Cup title but not much of a factor in the 2018 CCL campaign due to injuries. Both were sold to clubs in the Middle East and have yet to be replaced. Jozy Altidore has yet to play since undergoing ankle surgery last year.
Without them, the TFC attack was unable to break down the CAI defense despite having more than 70 percent of the possession.
It's so thin up front that Griffin Dorsey, taken in the 2019 SuperDraft out of Indiana, got the start on the right wing and left back Justin Morrow started on the left side. Later in the game, Ayo Akinola, Dorsey's teammate on the U.S. U-20 national team, came on along with Jacob Shaffelburg, who was playing last fall at New England prep school champion Berkshire School.
The one change in the TFC defense from a year ago was to bring Belgian international Laurent Ciman back to MLS after half a season in France, but Ciman and the other TFC defenders were repeatedly exposed by CAI. Abdiel Ayarza was allowed to chest the ball in the penalty area and turn on goal in the 9th minute, putting CAI ahead with a shot to the far post.
"Everything was too slow," said TFC coach Greg Vanney in reference to his team's defending and its buildup in attack.
Toronto FC had a chance to equalize in the 31st minute, but former U.S. international Terrence Boyd, making his TFC debut, whiffed badly on a penalty kick, sending it over the goal. After that, CAI was off to the races, executing its counterattack to perfection.
Things quickly fell apart at the start of the second half when Omar Browne eluded Ciman's challenge and beat keeper Alex Bono from outside the penalty area in the 48th minute. Romeesh Ivey, 34, burned the TFC defense for two more goals in the 52nd and 78th minutes.
Browne would have had scored another goal, but he hit the woodwork on a free kick in the second half.
Feb. 19 in La Chorrera
CAI 4 Toronto FC 0. Goals: Ayarza 9, Browne 48, Ivey 52, 78.
CAI -- Guerra, Vence, Negrete, Torres, Cordoba, Ayarza, Bolivar, Browne (Piedrahita 82), Ivey, Aguilar (Barrow 60), Gonzalez (Bellino 86)
Toronto FC -- Bono, Auro, Mavinga, Ciman, Morgan (Akinola 57), Osorio, Delgado, Bradley, Dorsey (Chapman 78), Morrow, Boyd (Shaffelburg 58).