• Club Atletico Independiente 4 (Ayarza 9’, Browne 48’, Ivey 52’, 78′), Toronto FC 0
• TFC loses opener in round-of-16 Champions League series
• Reds need to win second leg by 5 goals to advance to next round
Already feeling uneasy after the recent transfers of Sebastian Giovinco and Victor Vazquez, Toronto FC fans must be shaking their heads in collective disbelief after watching the Reds’ embarrassing capitulation in the Concacaf Champions League on Tuesday night.
TFC suffered a humiliating 4-0 road loss to Panamanian side Club Atletico Independiente de la Chorrera in the MLS club’s first competitive game since selling off its top scorer and star playmaker, a humbling result that’s a sign of just how much has changed in such a short period of time.
— Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League (@TheChampions) February 20, 2019
Last April, TFC was on the brink of becoming the first MLS team to ever win the Champions League, losing a penalty shootout heartbreaker to Mexico’s Chivas Guadalajara in the decisive second leg of the final. Nine months later, the Reds are on the cusp of being eliminated from this continental competition at the first hurdle.
Tuesday’s loss means Toronto has it all to do in the return leg of this round-of-16, aggregate series, scheduled for Feb. 26 at BMO Field. TFC will need to win that match by at least five goals in order to advance to the quarterfinals.
Toronto looked every bit like a side that is still in pre-season mode for the upcoming MLS season. The Reds lacked defensive sharpness and were bereft of attacking ideas going forward, while also struggling to deal with Independiente’s counter-attack and transition game.
As dismal as TFC was on the night, Independiente was just as brilliant, and fully deserving of the win, as the Panamanians ran the MLS side ragged for 90 minutes, routinely cutting open the back line with their speed and probing runs. Toronto never looked capable of scoring against the hosts, as Independiente goalkeeper Jose Guerra was basically a spectator.
With star forward Jozy Altidore still recovering from off-season ankle surgery, newcomer Terrence Boyd started up front as the main reference point in a 4-3-3 formation. Griffin Dorsey, a first-round draft pick, also cracked the starting lineup, playing in a front three with Altidore and Justin Morrow.
Drew Moor was nursing a minor leg injury, which meant Laurent Ciman partnered Chris Mavinga in the middle of the Reds’ defence. Winger Nick DeLeon travelled to Panama, but was ruled out with a back injury. Also unavailable was defender Eriq Zavaleta, who was back home in Toronto dealing with a quad issue.
Independiente opened the scoring when Romeesh Ivey chipped a ball into the box for Abdiel Ayarza, who controlled it with his chest before hitting a half volley that beat Toronto goalkeeper Alex Bono. Ivey should have doubled the hosts’ advantage shortly after when he latched onto a ball played over the top of Toronto’s defence, but he pushed his angled shot wide of the far post.
Toronto had a chance to equalize at the half-hour mark when Independiente’s Gerardo Negrete was called for a foul on Ciman inside the box. Boyd stepped up to the spot and blasted his penalty attempt high over the crossbar.
Independiente doubled its advantage shortly after the halftime break. Omar Browne took a pass from Jorman Aguilar and then cut inside Ciman – who went to ground in order to stop him, instead of staying on his feet – before unleashing a gorgeous shot from outside the box that swerved past Bono. Ivey made it 3-0 a few minutes later, capitalizing on some more dreadful defending to score into an empty net.
Ivey added a second goal in the 78th minute, slipping in behind the defence after being played in on goal by teammate Juan Gonzalez.
NOTES: Toronto FC has competed in five previous Champions League tournaments. This year mark’s Independiente’s Champions League debut… Toronto qualified for this year’s competition by winning the 2018 Canadian Championship last summer… TFC kicks off the MLS regular season with a road game against the Philadelphia Union on March 2.