Chivas holds the trophy aloft as the celebrate winning the CONCACAF Champions League final soccer match in Guadalajara, Mexico, Wednesday, April, 25, 2018. Chivas defeated Toronto FC in a penalty shoot out. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)
For all the strengths of the team widely regarded as MLS’ greatest ever, Toronto FC still possesses one glaring weakness: penalty kicks.
Michael Bradley and Jonathan Osorio missed from the spot and the Reds fell 4-2 to Chivas Guadalajara in a shootout for the Concacaf Champions League title Wednesday, following a 3-3 aggregate draw.
Toronto earned a 2-1 win in regulation courtesy of goals from Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco, but it was not enough.
Though it will not take the sting out of its defeat, TFC battled the odds to get as far as a shootout. It had no healthy centerbacks to choose from due to late injuries picked up by Drew Moor and Eriq Zavaleta, with Chris Mavinga and Nick Hagglund already ruled out and Jason Hernandez lacking match fitness.
That meant right back Gregory van der Wiel and captain Bradley forming a makeshift pairing in the middle.
When Rodolfo Pizarro and goalscorer Orbelin Pineda bamboozled the TFC defensive unit with a slick move off a turnover in midfield to extend Chivas’ aggregate lead to 3-1 inside 20 minutes, the visitors’ hopes of playing their way back into the tie did not look good.
But Toronto restored optimism off a corner. After the initial ball had been cleared, Nicolas Hasler battled for space with three or four Chivas defenders before firing a low pass across the box into the path of Altidore, who tapped it into the net.
Reinvigorated, TFC controlled the rest of the first half.
The opening 45 minutes were nearly done when the Reds found the breakthrough. Giovinco peeled away to the left side of the Chivas box and, after being fed a quick pass from Marky Delgado, he deceived Rodolfo Cota with a shot that snuck in at the near post.
After the interval, though, the game descended into almost total chaos. TFC midfielder Victor Vázquez — a surprise inclusion having struggled with a back injury — tested Cota from the edge of the box with a low shot, but TFC’s chances largely dried up.
That was a result of a number of factors: improvement from Chivas, off-the-ball antics and yet more forced changes, to name but three.
Giovinco was punched in the stomach by Michael Pérez, but the referee, who seemed to have a clear line of sight yards away from the incident, ignored it.
Hasler, a tired Vázquez and an injured Altidore all came off, replaced by young depth players Jordan Hamilton, Jay Chapman and Ager Aketxe, a new signing who has yet to settle with the team.
Eventually, penalties seemed inevitabile, though Delgado had one last chance to claim the trophy when Giovinco chipped a cross into his path Delgado’s shot blazed over the crossbar.
That will weigh heavily on the midfielder’s mind for a while. So will the misses from 12 yards by Osorio and Bradley. It was Oswaldo Alanís, Jesús Godínez, Alan Pulido and Ángel Zalvídar who converted from the spot to make Chivas continental champions for the first time since 1962.