Club Atletico Independiente defender Gerardo Negrete, front left, and forward Gustavo Bolvar (8) embrace after the team defeated Toronto FC to win a CONCACAF Champions League soccer match in Toronto on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)
Tuesday night in Panama, TFC were one of the first teams to open play in the 2019 version of the continental championship.
Following a shocking 4-0 defeat to Independiente in the opening leg of Round of 16 at Estadio Agustin Sanchez in La Chorrera, the Reds might be one of the first teams to exit.
The lone Panamanian team in the competition raced in front on a goal by Abdiel Ayarza in the ninth minute and scored two more goals four minutes apart early in the second half to head to BMO Field for the second leg in a week’s time with a commanding lead.
Ayarza got the party started for the hosts, chesting down a Romeesh Ivey ball served into the box and tucking it inside the far post.
Toronto FC had a golden chance to equalize just past the half-hour mark when referee Iván Arcides Barton Cisneros pointed to the penalty spot after Laurent Ciman was pulled down by Gerardo Negrete following a Michael Bradley free kick.
It was a perfect opportunity for newly-signed striker Terrence Boyd to open his account, but the former U.S. national team player fired well over the crossbar.
— Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League (@TheChampions) February 20, 2019
The hosts doubled their lead just three minutes into the second half on a sensational strike by Omar Browne. The Panamanian sent Ciman to the ground with a devastating cutback to his left foot and them hammered a swerving blast over Alex Bono’s head.
The CCL debutants made it 3-0 in the 52nd minute when Ivey tapped into the open net after Bono came out to challenge Jorman Aguilar, who was slipped through by Juan Gonzalez. Chris Mavinga got a piece of the ball on a sliding tackle, but it fell right to Ivey, who scored easily.
Browne was inches away from his second, but he sent his 72nd-minute free kick off the crossbar. Ivey wouldn’t miss six minutes later. After receiving an inch-perfect cross from Gonzalez, he around an onrushing Bono and slipped his second goal into the open net.
The only bright spot Toronto FC could have returned to Canada with was an away goal. But the Reds came away empty and have a massive hill to climb to extend their 2019 CCL beyond the opening round.