MEXICO CITY — Unable to dig itself out of a deep first-leg hole, Toronto FC exited the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League on Tuesday at the hands of Cruz Azul.
The Mexican league leader won comfortably 1-0 on the night and 4-1 on aggregate to cruise into the final four of CONCACAF's flagship club competition.
Cruz Azul will face either defending MLS champion Columbus Crew SC or Monterrey in the August semifinals. Monterrey hosts Columbus on Wednesday in Mexico with the aggregate score at 2-2.
Cruz Azul's 3-1 victory last week at Tampa's Raymond James Stadium meant Toronto had to score at least three goals, with the degree of difficulty escalating if the Mexican side scored.
Bryan Angulo, who scored twice in the opening leg, added to the aggregate lead in the 28th minute with a looping shot from 30-plus yards out that a backtracking Alex Bono could not get a hand to.
Fullback Justin Morrow provided an inadvertent assist, his attempt at a headed clearance off a Cruz Azul goal kick deflecting high and back towards his own goal. The ball bounced once to the side of Angulo, who was in space between the Toronto centre backs, allowing the Ecuadorean forward to swing his right leg through it for a spectacular strike.
The goal, Angulo's fourth of the tournament and third against Toronto, seemed to take some of the air out of TFC.
The rest of the game offered little drama in an empty Azteca Stadium.
Angulo had opened the scoring in the first leg with a third-minute wonder-strike, curling a superb right-footed shot from just outside the penalty box into the far corner past Bono.
Toronto was without all three designated players. Spanish playmaker Alejandro Pozuelo remains out with a thigh injury, star striker Jozy Altidore was feeling unwell and newly signed Venezuelan winger Yeferson Soteldo was finishing out his quarantine in TFC's adopted home of Orlando.
On the plus side, fullback Richie Laryea returned from suspension and influential centre back Chris Mavinga made his first start of the season after being sidelined by a calf injury.
Ayo Akinola started in place of Altidore. Nick DeLeon also got the start with Auro, Eriq Zavaleta and Ralph Priso dropping out,
Cruz Azul came into the game riding an 18-game unbeaten streak (15-0-3) in all competitions and tops Liga MX at 13-2-2. In contrast, Toronto (0-1-1) has yet to win in the young MLS season.
Toronto had an MLS bye on the weekend and had not played since the first leg. Cruz Azul tied Tijuana 1-1 on Saturday in Liga MX play.
Bono was called into action early, pushing aside a powerful shot from Walter Montoya from just inside the penalty box two minutes in. DeLeon found Jonathan Osorio at the back post in the seventh minute but his goal-bound header hit defender Adrian Aldrete.
The Mexican side looked to play direct, sending balls over the Toronto backline with players racing after then.
Set plays continued to cause Toronto problems with Bono having to push away a header from an unmarked Pablo Aguilar off a 13th-minute corner. The Paraguayan centre back scored on a header from a free kick in the first leg.
DeLeon, sent in alone, beat Jesus Corona in the 18th minute but the goal was called back for offside.
Mavinga used his speed in the 23rd minute to get back in position and block Angulo from getting a dangerous shot. Corona, a 40-year-old Mexican international, had to make back-to back saves minutes later off Akinola and then Omar Gonzalez, off the ensuing corner.
Mavinga and Osorio came off at halftime, with Auro and Tsubasa Endoh coming on. Patrick Mullins and Noble Okello replaced DeLeon and Jacob Shaffelburg, who both had good nights, in the 68th minute. Ralph Priso came off the bench in the 82nd minute.
Cruz Azul came close twice early in the second half but both shots were just off-target.
Cruz Azul has not reached the semifinals since 2013-14 when it won the tournament. Toronto reached the final in 2018, losing to Guadalajara in a penalty shootout.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 4, 2021
The Canadian Press