Toronto FC - disappointment - Marky Delgado
USA Today Sports

Toronto FC deal with full range of emotions after CCL final heartbreak

It wasn't meant to be.

Toronto FC's 2018 Concacaf Champions League dream came to an end on Wednesday night in Guadalajara.

Trailing 2-1 after defeat at home in the first leg, TFC fell behind early once more, only to come storming back with two of their own in short order, ultimately sending the match to a shootout when the final whistle was blown following a 2-1 win

But just like in the 2016 MLS Cup final, the shots from 12 paces would not go their way.

“We're gutted,” said goalkeeper Alex Bono to TSN post-match. “We thought that we were good enough to win it. It comes down to PKs: a 50-50 chance. Today it didn't go our way."

Had TFC won the series, they would have been the first MLS team to win the CCL under the current format.

“We wanted to be the first to lift the Concacaf Champions League trophy. We failed in that goal; that's massively disappointing,” added Bono. “I'm very proud for the run that we made, for the effort we put in over two legs in every series that we played in. This is the way the game goes, it's unjust; it feels the heart has been ripped from the chest sometimes.”

With the odds stacked against them, Toronto rose to the occasion, becoming just the fourth MLS side to win a match in Mexico, but at the end they fell just short of the goal.

“I have no complaints for my team,” said head coach Greg Vanney in his post-match press conference. “We worked hard. This tournament has been a grind and we battled the entire way, all the way to the end. Congratulations to Chivas, they won. I've got nothing to say to my guys other than I'm proud of them.”

The conclusion was not that which was desired, but they went about it exactly the way they aimed.

“In the biggest moments, we threw caution to the wind and played with balls, bravery, and pride in ourselves, in each other, in our club and our city,” TFC captain Michael Bradley told TSN. “And unfortunately at the end one team has to lose. When you compete at the highest level that's how it goes.”

With the revelation that Drew Moor and Eriq Zavaleta were both unavailable, adding to the already lengthy injury list, Toronto were forced to dig deeper still. They won the match, but lost the series.

“Our guys do what they have to do,” said Vanney. “We had zero healthy center backs tonight. We asked guys to step up, do a role: Michael [Bradley], the whole backline was phenomenal. We came down here, we won the game, which we had to do to even get into a shootout. I'm proud of the way they competed, the way they came down here and played, for winning the game. 

“At the end of the day, it's been a couple of shootouts over the last couple of years that haven't done us very kind,” continued Vanney. “We had one opportunity at the very end that could have been the difference, but I go back to [the first leg in] Toronto: we can't give away two goals. That's the difference in the series. It wasn't the soccer, it was a couple of goals we shouldn't have allowed.”

Bradley too is proud of his side: “We've played some of the biggest games in the history of this club, of this league, in the last few years.” 

“When the lights have come on brightest, we've been a team in every sense of the word. We've been competitors, we've been winners,” continued Bradley. “Tonight, a few things didn't go our way, but that doesn't change what we're all about, what went into it.”

And for the fans in Toronto, Bradley echoed the message he has embodied since joining the club.

“We tried to play, compete, and represent them in way they could be proud of,” said Bradley. “We would have loved nothing more than to be bringing home a trophy for them tomorrow. But I'm absolutely convinced that if we continue on this path there are going to be more trophies.”