Daniel Girard | The Star
Advantage Puerto Rico.
A second-half goal and solid defending gave the visiting Puerto Rico Islanders a 1-0 win over Toronto FC in the opening game of the CONCACAF Champions League Wednesday night.
The loss before 20,758 fans at BMO Field puts TFC in a large hole as the two teams head to Puerto Rico for the return leg of the preliminary round match next Tuesday.
TFC will have to win the match on a hot night in a raucous stadium to move into the group stage of the tournament for the top clubs teams from North and Central America and the Caribbean.
That’s a tall task, especially against a team that has posted shutouts in six of its last seven games.
The Puerto Rico goal came against the flow of the play in the 67th minute.
After TFC had spent most of the opening 20 minutes of the second half in the Puerto Rico end and created several good scoring chances, the visitors pounced on a mistake.
On a seemingly innocent cross, TFC goalkeeper Stefan Frei charged off his line to grab a bouncing ball on the edge of the six-yard box. But he couldn’t get ahold of it and Puerto Rico striker Kendall Jagdeosingh controlled it, turned and drilled a shot high into the net.
Puerto Rico goalkeeper William Gaudette kept TFC off the board rest of the way.
Gaudette made a great diving save off a Jim Brennan volley in the 88th minute.
Just a minute later, he dived and got his hand on a Danny Dichio header that appeared destined for the bottom corner to his right.
Newly acquired TFC striker Ali Gerba appeared to have tied it for the home side just three minutes after the visitors’ goal when he put in a low shot from in close but it was ruled offside.
The teams played a scoreless and largely uneventful first half.
Puerto Rico was content to defend and wait for a break on the counter-attack. Nothing materialized and the TFC goalkeeper wasn’t forced to make a save in the first 45 minutes.
The Islanders, who had posted five straight shutouts, all on the road, before a 4-2 loss in Vancouver last weekend, surrendered few chances to the home side in the first half.
One of the few came in the 25th minute when TFC striker Chad Barrett made a nice cross off the left wing. Dwayne De Rosario beat a defender to the ball but his sharp header from 12 yards sailed just past the right post.
Toronto held a 5-3 shot advantage in the opening half but just two of them were on net.
NOTES: Puerto Rico is tied for first place in the second-tier United Soccer Leagues First Division…. The second annual CONCACAF Champions League features 24 teams from North and Central America and the Caribbean. … TFC qualified for the Champions League by winning the Canadian championship over the Vancouver Whitecaps and Montreal Impact, clinching it with a 6-1 win in Montreal. … The teams will play the second leg of their preliminary round match-up next Tuesday in Bayamon, near San Juan. The winner moves to the group stage beginning in August