TORONTO – Put another mark in the MLS column.
Sebastian Giovinco scored from the penalty spot after nine minutes and Andres Ibarguen responded 12 minutes later. But goals from Jozy Altidore and Ashtone Morgan either side of halftime put Toronto in the driver's seat ahead of next week's second leg at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City.
“We stayed organized defensively and made it difficult on them,” said TFC coach Greg Vanney said of his team’s performance. “From a game-plan perspective, execution from our group, it was very well done. A little disappointed in the goal we gave up: it was a little too easy for [Ibarguen] to dribble through four of our guys. [Alex] Bono made his big save [on Henry Martin in the 84th minute] to keep it 3-1; that was huge. Aside from that, we did a great job of keeping them at bay and not giving them much.”
Where Vanney saw TFC as making the most of the night, América’s Miguel "Piojo" Herrera thought differently, his side losing rather than Toronto winning.
“We missed, we had chances,” Herrera said post-match. “They had three chances and scored three goals on mistakes that we made.”
According to Vanney, such differing opinions are not uncommon.
“I'm trying to think of the great chances they had,” he said. “Aside from the one they got through on, that Bono makes a save, I can't think of another really good chance. They had balls in dangerous areas, guys running through, missed some touches where maybe they can get a chance; we had some of those ourselves.
“He sees it how he sees it and will determine how he wants to approach the next game,” added Vanney. “And we'll do the same.”
Herrera caused a stir in the runup to the match when he dismissed MLS as competition to Liga MX, saying Mexico’s top flight competes with Europe, not their North American neighbors.
Toronto did catch wind of the remarks.
“I saw a little bit. It is what it is,” said Drew Moor. “We don't really use that as bulletin-board material or anything. I'm a fan of this league, think it is very good and moving in a good direction. The fact that people are talking about MLS catching up to Liga MX is a good sign.
“[Herrera] can say what he wants,” he added. “We'll see how the second leg goes.”
Though his other remarks – about the performance of the referee and the actions of the Toronto Police Service – were even more explosive, Herrera backtracked slightly in the wake of the defeat.
“I've said it before, it is a league that is growing,” said Piojo of MLS. “They have great players with a lot of funding. And tonight Toronto took advantage of the mistakes that we made.”
So did the Mexican heavyweights overlook their opponent?
“I'm not sure, you'd have to ask them,” said TFC captain Michael Bradley. “Herrera is a good coach, but he is also full of personality, not afraid to say certain things … I'm not sure whether even he believes everything he says sometimes. We have complete respect for him, for Club América.
“The opportunity for us to play on nights like this, and prove ourselves, in little ways to some and big ways to others, that's exciting,” added Bradley. “Ultimately, the only thing we care about is giving ourselves a chance to continue on; be the team holding up that trophy.”