Jonathan Osorio of Canada's Toronto FC, is congratulated by teammates after scoring against Mexico's America, during the second leg of a CONCACAF Champions League soccer semifinal in Mexico City, Tuesday, April 10, 2018. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)
In just about the toughest route imaginable to Concacaf Champions League glory, Toronto FC has one step left to take.
The Reds nearly added a win at the famous Estadio Azteca to their increasingly impressive list of accomplishments Tuesday, leading 1-0 against Club América until added time. A penalty conceded by the otherwise excellent Michael Bradley in the dying seconds saw Mateus Uribe net an equalizer, but it mattered little as Toronto secured a 4-2 aggregate victory.
Chivas of Guadalajara — América’s fiercest rivals — await TFC in the final.
Having taken a 3-1 lead at BMO Field last week, Toronto inflicted the damage it needed. Tuesday, Tosaint Ricketts — who replaced an injured Jozy Altidore as an early substitute — latched on to Sebastian Giovinco’s pass and squared for Jonathan Osorio to net his third goal of the tournament in the 12th minute.
That put TFC in command on aggregate and left América needing three goals just to extend the tie to a penalty shootout.
The hosts spent most of the rest of the game huffing and puffing, taking 29 shots — seven hit the target — and boasting 65 perent of possession.
When América was accurate, though, it met a brick wall in Toronto goalkeeper Alex Bono, who made one particularly outstanding save to deny right back Paul Aguilar’s header from close range in the first half.
Soon after, Bono denied veteran striker Oribe Peralta from Aguilar’s cross.
América also saw a goal disallowed when Eriq Zavaleta headed into his own net only to be saved by the offside flag.
Once halftime arrived, there was a sense the belief had been taken out of Miguel Herrera’s men. The coach stormed off the field after expressing his unhappiness at Uzbek referee Ravshan Irmatov, who denied América a couple of dubious claims for a penalty.
Substitute Alejandro Díaz forced another good save out of Bono from a header, but otherwise the seven-time continental champions created little after the break — until Bradley fouled Peralta to give Uribe the chance to convert from the penalty spot.
The only negative on the night for TFC was the injury suffered by Altidore in the first 10 minutes, though it later emerged that the American had rolled his ankle during the warmup and not strained a muscle as first feared.
Gregory van der Wiel was also withdrawn at the interval, though it is not yet clear whether that change was influenced by injury or a desire by coach Greg Vanney to get more pressure on the ball in midfield by introducing Nicolas Hasler.
In the other semifinal earlier in the night, Chivas secured a 0-0 draw at the New York Red Bulls to protect the 1-0 lead it had established in the first leg. The Mexican giants will visit Toronto in the week commencing April 16 to kick off the final.