Needing only a scoreless draw to advance to the Concacaf Champions League quarterfinals, an injury-depleted Toronto FC did one better by beating Liga MX side Club Leon 2-1 Wednesday night to advance 3-2 on aggregate.

After a 1-1 draw from Leg 1 that put Toronto in the driver’s seat thanks to the CCL’s away goals tiebreaker, TFC welcomed Leon to their temporary home of Florida, in this case the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, for Leg 2.

Toronto thought they had an opener in the 29th minute via Noble Okello, but the homegrown midfielder’s header was incorrectly ruled out by an offside decision.

But they were not denied for long. Patrick Mullins broke the deadlock in the 55th minute, giving Toronto FC a 1-0 lead on left winger Jacob Shaffelburg’s inch-perfect cross atop the six-yard box. Shaffelburg collected a feed out wide and slid across to the striker, who tapped home with his right boot.

Veteran defender Justin Morrow, a second-half substitute at left winger, then made it 2-0 in the 71st minute when bundling home a contested through ball. Club Leon goalkeeper Rodolfo Cota rushed out to collect midfielder Ralph Priso’s pass, but it deflected off Morrow and in for an insurance goal.

Club Leon discovered a lifeline in the 80th minute, seizing momentum when Fernando Navarro punched home upon making an unmarked run into the 18-yard box. The midfielder brushed home left back Yairo Moreno’s cross to put the pressure on a young Toronto side.

Reds goalkeeper Alex Bono made a series-clinching save in the 90th minute, getting down to his right to deny a grass-cutter from Emmanuel Gigliotti. Had the Argentine forward equalized at 2-2, Club Leon would’ve gone through by having more away goals.

Goals

  • 55' – TOR – Patrick Mullins | WATCH
  • 71' – TOR – Justin Morrow | WATCH
  • 80' – LEO – Fernando Navarro | WATCH

Three Things

  • THE BIG PICTURE: Toronto FC had the toughest draw of all five MLS clubs in the 2021 Concacaf Champions League, and the task got even more difficult (at least on paper) when considering their lengthy list of absences. They were without center back Chris Mavinga, midfielder Alejandro Pozuelo and forward Jozy Altidore, among others, causing new head coach Chris Armas to put four academy products in the starting XI. But that mattered little in the end, as the Reds banded together and secured a memorable result against their Liga MX foe.
  • MOMENT OF THE MATCH: The opening goal from Patrick Mullins gave Toronto FC belief and they never looked back. The build-up, completed by Jacob Shaffelburg’s pristine cross and the tap-in finish, caused pure elation.
  • MAN OF THE MATCH: Toronto FC captain Michael Bradley was immense from start to finish. The Reds needed veterans to step up with so many first-choice regulars missing, and the 33-year-old midfielder answered the call.

Next up

  • TOR: Saturday, April 17 at CF Montréal (in Miami, Florida) | 2 pm ET, MLS LIVE on ESPN+ | 2021 MLS regular season