Daniel Girard | TheStar.com
Toronto FC’s first foray into international competition is over.
A goalless draw in Puerto Rico last night in the second leg of a two-game preliminary round in the CONCACAF Champions League gave the Islanders a 1-0 win on aggregate.
TFC, which advanced into the competition by winning the Canadian championship, dominated the second half of the game but couldn’t get the ball past goalkeeper Bill Gaudette, who picked up his seventh straight shutout for Puerto Rico.
The 27-year-old American, who played three seasons with the Columbus Crew of Major League Soccer, handled all that TFC threw at him, sometimes in spectacular fashion.
TFC outshot the home side 20-11, though many of their chances came from long range against a big and talented Puerto Rico defence content to sit back.
Puerto Rico, which plays in the second-tier United Soccer League’s First Division, took the opening leg 1-0 at BMO Field last Wednesday, meaning TFC needed a 1-0 victory last night to force 30 minutes of extra time to decide the preliminary-round winner.
Toronto’s best chances to score came early in the second half.
In the 53rd minute, Amado Guevara cracked a right-footed drive from 25 yards but Gaudette rose and pushed it over the crossbar.
Less than 10 minutes later, Gaudette again got his hand on a shot, this time a header flicked by Pablo Vitti off a nice cross into the penalty area by Guevara.
When Gaudette wasn’t coming up big, his post did. Danny Dichio took a nodded pass from fellow striker Ali Gerba in the goalmouth in the 77th minute, beat two defenders and thumped it behind the goalkeeper and off the right post.
Toronto also appealed for a penalty when Gerba appeared to be taken down by a defender in the penalty area but the referee didn’t give it.
Puerto Rico now moves on to group-stage play of the competition, which features the top club teams from North and Central America as well as the Caribbean.
After a Friday night friendly against European titan Real Madrid at BMO Field, TFC will then focus on the push for the MLS playoffs. They have 10 games remaining and are in the thick of the race to make the post-season for the first time in club history.
Each team came close to opening the scoring in the first half last night.
After a Toronto giveaway, the ball was played to Nicholas Addlery between two defenders just outside the TFC penalty area.
He lashed a right-footed strike that beat diving goalkeeper Stefan Frei but not the left goalpost.
Toronto, which for much of the opening 45 minutes tried unsuccessfully to push the ball through the middle of the Puerto Rico defence, had their best chances from long range.
In the 16th minute, Gerba thumped a free kick from about 35 yards that beat the wall of defenders and forced Gaudette to dive to his right and push it wide.
The Islanders dominated much of the possession in the opening 45 minutes. While they pushed forward a little more than they did in the first leg in Toronto, they seemed content to focus on keeping the visitors off the scoresheet.
Toronto held a 7-4 shot advantage in the first half.