CCL Recap: Johnson's brace lifts TFC into group stage
Ryan Johnson scored two goals and Toronto FC’s defense did the rest on Tuesday night, as the Reds topped Real Estelí 2-1 in the second game of the teams’ CONCACAF Champions League preliminary round series in Estelí, Nicaragua, to advance to the tournament’s group stage.
Johnson scored on a gorgeous strike from distance in the 37th minute and then buried a breakaway chance after Real Estelí goalkeeper Carlos Mendieta muffed a clearance in the 47th minute to help TFC lock down a 4-2 series win on aggregate goals. The Reds won the two-game series opener 2-1 last week at BMO Field.
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The win was Toronto’s first ever on the road in CCL play, and good enough to launch them into Group C when play opens later this month. TFC join a group with Mexican side Pumas UNAM, Panamanian group Tauro and the winner of FC Dallas and El Salvador’s Alianza FC. FC Dallas boast a 1-0 lead heading into the series finale on Wednesday night at Pizza Hut Park.
Johnson gave Toronto a 1-0 lead with a left-footed strike from outside the box to the top right corner that erased Real Estelí’s away goal from the first leg at BMO Field and gave the Reds a 3-1 lead on aggregate.
That lasted until Manuel Rosas scored the lone goal for Real Estelí during first half stoppage time after recent TFC pickup Andy Iro was whistled for a handball inside the penalty box. Milos Kocic earned his second straight CCL start in net for TFC in place of regular starter Stefan Frei.
But then came Johnson’s second tally just minutes into the second half, a relatively easy left-footed finish after Mendieta’s poor clearance. That quieted the crowd and all but sent TFC on their way to the next round with eyes on improving on an early exit from the group stage last year.
Forward Danny Koevermans did not start for Toronto but came on in the 71st minute for Danleigh Borman. Ashtone Morgan substituted for Johnson in the 59th minute, while Matt Stinson came on for Javier Martina in the 34th.
Johnson, who was traded to Toronto FC last month from the San Jose Earthquakes and made his TFC debut in league play on July 20, has scored one goal in three league appearances for his new team to go with his two tallies in CCL play on Tuesday night.