So after last nights matches I was looking forward to the next batch of CONCACAF Champions League matches. I would be sadly disappointed by an MLS side again though as I watched the one match of 3 today that was televised. Toronto FC came back to win their qualifying match by 5 goals when 4 would have put them through in Canadian qualifications. This result and those from their recent form in the MLS made their chances look good for the Prelim rounds of the tournament, but what looks good does not always pan out as we have come to find out.
Toronto FC (Canada/MLS) 0-1 Puerto Rico Islanders (Puerto Rico/USL-1)
The match would start out slow for Toronto FC, giving the Islanders many chances, none of which became too dangerous though. As the first half of play went on though, TFC gained control of the possession battle and started to look somewhat threatening. No matter how much possession TFC managed though their play in the final third lacked authority, that and the fact that the Islanders would drop 10 men behind the ball. The draw would stick, taking both sides in at a 0-0 draw.
The coaches had some work to do at halftime and Toronto came out looking dangerous. Nothing TFC did though could find the back of the net. Play went back and forth between the sides for much of the second half after the strong start from TFC, but no one could seem to find the breakthrough. In the 67th minute though TFC would have a defensive blunder that saw many defenders in the box and the keeper out of his goal, this mishap would become worse as the ball found it’s way to the Islanders front man Kendall Jagdeosingh, who would not have to use his speed after all to score the goal that opened the scoring and put the Islanders up 1-0. TFC would fight the rest of the match trying to find the equalizer, but an equalizer would not come for TFC on this night. In their first CONCACAF Champions League appearance TFC thought they had the best shot of any to make it through the Prelim rounds, with the Islanders being on an extended road trip and having played a match only a few days before against Vancouver that took 4 hours to finish. This match would not be joyful for the hopeful TFC side though, leaving them with a job to do next week when they travel to Puerto Rico for the second leg, needing 2 goals to win the match outright and 1 to take the match to extra time. TFC has proven that they can overcome the odds in times before, but this Islanders side is no slouch, having made the Quarterfinals of the Champions League only last season. So while TFC looks forward to next week, the Islanders will continue their road trip and look forward to the second leg, going in with the advantage now.
A side note on this match is the fact that the referee did not give a single yellow card until the dying minutes of the match when defender Scott Jones for the Islanders was finally cautioned. Now I as most fans enjoy watching a match where the referee does not interfere too much, but this match needed a few cautions for reckless challenges and Islander’s keeper Bill Gaudette wasted enough time throughout the match to merit playing 8+ minutes of extra time per half. Gaudette even went as far as to have the kit man bring him a new set of gloves in an attempt to waste time. So like I said, I do not want the referee involved constantly, but I would expect something when the blatant act of time wasting has occurred in excess of what any fan, spectator, viewer, or commentator deem appropriate. This made the match hard to watch at times, making some wonder why we should bother watching an Islanders match in the first place, and I am not a fan of either side.
As I mentioned before I did not get a chance to watch the other two matches tonight because I could not find them broadcast on English or Spanish television, so for those of you who plan on following this with me through my blog here are the scores and goal scorers from the other two matches on the evening.
San Francisco (Panama/ Liga Panamena de Futbol) 2-0 San Juan Jabloteh (T & T/TT Pro League)
Goals: Carlos Mario Vilarete Diaz (5 pen.), Temistocles Perez (83)
Municipal Liberia (Costa Rica/Primera) 3-0 Real Espana (Honduras/ Liga Nacional)
Goals: Michael Imana (31 pen.), Alejandro Alpizar Delgado (75, 90)
After seeing the box scores on these matches I am sorely disappointed that I missed them. The football from south of the border has been amazing to watch and I can only hope that this tournament keeps getting televised coverage, whether in English or Spanish. For now I will be looking forward to tomorrow nights matchup for the last of the 3 MLS sides competing in the Prelim rounds, New York Red Bulls, who I do not think have a chance to make it through this two legged tie at all. After coming up short in the MLS Cup last season New York have become the laughing stock of the league, and after tomorrow evening the train wreck known as the New York Red Bulls will, in my opinion, become the laughing stock of the CONCACAF Champions League as well.