But the old ghosts of MLS CCL struggles past had other ideas.
Chivas stunned the hosts with a gut-wrenching goal less than 120 seconds after the opening whistle, Rodolfo Pizarro netting from close range to snatch an early lead, a precious away goal and a massive mental advantage for the Mexican giants.
Though clearly rattled by the setback, TFC rallied gamely, hauling themselves back into the match via Jonathan Osorio's fourth goal of the tournament and watching in agony as an effort from Jozy Altidore, who was hampered by illness and appeared to throw up repeatedly during the match, clanged the post before halftime. But their momentum flagged after the break, and a costly misjudgment by goalkeeper Alex Bono pushed the Canadian side into an even deeper hole.
Chivas star Alan Pulido may have intended it as a cross, but his deep set-piece delivery from near the touchline was sweetly struck from range, arcing over Bono's fingertips and into the net to deliver a massive 2-1 victory for the Goats. It leaves TFC with a mountain to climb in Leg 2 at Estadio Akron in Guadalajara next Wednesday (9:30 pm ET | TSN in Canada, Univision Deportes, go90.com in US).
- THE BIG PICTURE: With Altidore ailing, Sebastian Giovinco out of sorts and just about everyone else in home colors looking rattled and sloppy, TFC suddenly found themselves in a worse-case scenario. This result was as much about TFC's generosity as it was Chivas' quality, and now the Reds will need heroics in Mexico.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Pizarro's early goal caught the Toronto defense sleeping and was immensely influential on the entire evening, and probably, the series itself.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: There's little choice but to award this title to Pizarro, who took his chance when he needed to and put in plenty of hard work down the stretch as well.
Chivas' other goalscorer, Rodolfo Pizarro, also had a good night. That said, overall I'd say TFC lost this one as much as the Goats won it. Early goal left the Reds jittery and imprecise all night.#TORvCHV pic.twitter.com/fcZVNOdCto— Charles Boehm (@cboehm) April 18, 2018
- TOR: Saturday, April 21 at Houston Dynamo (3 pm ET | CTV, TSN1/3/4, Full TV & Streaming Info)