TORONTO — Santos Laguna’s Herculez Gomez and Toronto FC’s Miguel Aceval matched first-half goals and the visitors from Mexico held on despite playing a man down for more than 15 minutes in the teams’ 1-1 draw on Wednesday before 18,950 fans at BMO Field in the opening leg of their CONCACAF Champions League semifinal series.
The series concludes April 4 in Torreón, Mexico, with TFC looking for their first berth in the CCL finals and the second for Major League Soccer in as many years.
The night started on a sour note for TFC, who fell behind in the 30th minute off a goal from Gomez. The US international took a feed from Carlos Quintero on the right side and deposited a shot past TFC goalkeeper Milos Kocic, who started in net after starter Stefan Frei suffered a broken leg during workouts last week.
The Reds responded, however, from an unlikely source. Aceval pounded a tricky free kick from 30 yards out that bounded past Santos goalkeeper Oswaldo Sánchez, evening the match headed into the break.
TFC struggled to pull ahead, however, and failed to capitalize after Santos defender Osmar Mares was sent off for a studs-up tackle on Toronto’s Richard Eckersley in the 77th minute.
Striker Ryan Johnson had the team's best chance in the 64th minute off a pinpoint cross from midfielder Julian de Guzman, but Sánchez tipped Johnson's right-footed redirection just wide of the far post. Midfielder Terry Dunfield also had a good look go wide when he flicked a shot with his right foot off the mark in the 72nd minute.
TFC striker Danny Koevermans was issued a yellow card in the 36th minute for dissent, meaning he’ll be suspended for the second leg of the series next week.
The Reds could also be without Aceval, who was subbed out of the game for rookie center back Aaron Maund in 49th minute with an injury. Gomez was also subbed out for Santos after suffering an injury due to a collision with Kocic in the 69th minute.