Video: Toronto FC, Seattle Sounders Continue to Show MLS How It's Done
Toronto earned a 2-2 tie at CD Motagua of Tegucigalpa and advanced thanks to their 1-0 win at BMO Field on July 27. A couple of hours later, the Sounders got a goal from new singing, Alvaro Fernández and drew 1-1 at El Salvador's Isidro Metapán. They also go through thanks to a 1-0 home win.
Getting good results against these teams shouldn't be noteworthy for MLS, but it is. The league has been awful in CONCACAF competition and has managed to send just two teams to the quarterfinals since the competition expanded in 2008. Simply negotiating the two-legged qualifier hasn't been a given. Toronto and the New York Red Bulls were eliminated by Caribbean teams last year, and D.C. United needed penalty kicks to get past a Salvadoran club. In 2008, both the New England Revolution and Chivas USA were bounced at the preliminary stage by Trinidadian and Panamanian teams, respectively.
In addition, MLS clubs had compiled a pretty miserable 4-16-7 record in Central America. Draws for Toronto and Seattle were no given.
But they were achieved, and both teams should be congratulated for not continuing to embarrass MLS internationally.
Motagua is no pushover -- Honduras' World Cup squad featured five players from the club, including former MLS MVP Amado Guevara. He scored in each half on Tuesday night but was matched first by Toronto captain and all-time MLS clutch performer Dwayne De Rosario and then by forward Chad Barrett, whose 79th-minute tally sealed advancement.
Here are the highlights:
Seattle may have had a tougher assignment despite the less-fancied opposition. The roster has been shaken up over the past month, with the additions of Swiss forward Blaise Nkufo and Fernández and the trade of talisman Freddie Ljungberg to Chicago. In addition, Estadio Cuscatlán was pounded by torrential rains and the field played like a swamp.
Metapán leveled the two-game series with a goal in the 34th minute, but Fernández showed why Seattle thought he was the right replacement for Ljungberg in the 75th, rising and hitting a perfect snapping header inside the right post.
The highlights from San Salvador:
Toronto will begin group play at Mexico City power Cruz Azul on Aug. 17 -- an MLS team has never won a game in Mexico. Seattle's next Champions League match will be Aug. 19 against another qualifier. The Mexican team in the Sounders' group is Monterrey.
They're already joined in the group stage by automatic qualifiers Real Salt Lake and Columbus Crew. The Los Angeles Galaxy will try to join them on Wednesday night, but they face a very steep uphill climb in Puerto Rico thanks to a ridiculous 4-1 loss in the first leg.
The Puerto Rico Islanders play in the U.S. second division, and the Galaxy's likely elimination is a huge black eye for MLS. But Toronto and Seattle softened the blow a bit on Tuesday night.