SPORTS

Soolsma scores in 67th, TFC beats Galaxy to advance to Champions League semis

03/15/2012 12:25 EDT | Updated 05/14/2012 05:12 EDT
CARSON, Calif. - There would be no letdown for Toronto FC this time.

Seven days after a late Los Angeles comeback essentially left Toronto in need of a road win against Major League Soccer's defending champions, the Reds' defence came through in a 2-1 win over the Galaxy on Wednesday night in CONCACAF Champions League quarter-final action.

TFC won the quarter-final 4-3 on aggregate after the teams tied 2-2 in last week's first leg in Toronto.

This time Toronto held the lead. When the final whistle sounded, players from the bench spilled onto the field and mobbed their teammates, celebrating Toronto's accomplishment of becoming the first Canadian club to advance this far in the history of the tournament.

"I feel happy for Toronto," striker Ryan Johnson said. "This is personally something I've wanted for Toronto since I got here."

Johnson scored the game's opening goal and later assisted on Nick Soolsma's winner in the 67th minute.

Toronto will face Mexico's Santos Laguna in the semifinals. Santos Laguna routed the Seattle Sounders 6-1 on Wednesday night in Torreon, Mexico, for a 7-3 aggregate victory.

Just last week Toronto held a comfortable 2-0 lead in front of a raucous crowd of 47,000 at Rogers Centre only to watch as Landon Donovan capitalized on a defensive miscue in the 89th minute to help forge a 2-2 tie.

Instead of being able to play for a tie and advance, Toronto came to Los Angeles in search of a win or high-scoring draw, a tough task against a Galaxy squad that was unbeaten in competitive play at home last season.

But the MLS champions looked vulnerable as they played their third game in seven days, especially after allowing Johnson's header off a long cross into the box from Soolsma for the opening goal in the 34th minute.

And while an own goal from Ty Harden momentarily levelled the score, Johnson set up Soolsma's go-ahead goal 12 minutes later.

"We made a pact this year that if something happens, to keep our heads up and fight back," Johnson said.

The atmosphere was noticeably different Wednesday night compared from the first leg. Attendance at The Home Depot Center was limited to a sellout crowd of 7,500 fans because of a prearranged mid-week parking agreement with the Galaxy and the stadium's landlord, Cal State University.

The small section of Toronto supporters that showed up were treated to an upset of the heavily-favoured Galaxy.

"We punished ourselves by not winning this game," Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. "It was there to be won and we didn't get it done."

The difference between the teams on Wednesday was that Toronto finished its opportunities and Los Angeles did not.

The Galaxy managed 14 shots, twice as many as Toronto, including an abundance of looks in the opening half. But they were hampered by a lack of accuracy on those attempts.

"If you don't put chances away then there's always going to be the danger that teams are going to break-off and beat you," Galaxy star David Beckham said. "They had two chances and finished them both."

Johnson positioned himself on the far post and made a well-timed leap to rise above Galaxy defender Tommy Meyer and meet Soolsma's cross with his head for his second goal of the series, giving Toronto a 1-0 lead.

A defensive miscue allowed the Galaxy to even the score in the 55th minute. Donovan worked the ball down the right sideline and played a ball into the box intended for Robbie Keane, but it was instead intercepted by a sliding Harden and pushed into the net.

Soolsma scored the winner when Johnson dribbled toward the end line and found his streaking teammate for a one-time blast.

Toronto preserved the advantage, heading back home riding a supreme amount of confidence.

"This is huge," Johnson said. "It shows the difference that this year has made. What we are doing her is special."

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