TORONTO - Toronto FC felt they had victory within their grasp on Tuesday. But as has often been the case this season, their undoing was a goal off a set piece.
Defender Marco Palacios scored on a header, forcing Toronto to settle for a 1-1 draw with Pumas of Mexico in a CONCACAF Champions League Group C match at BMO Field.
"Before the game we would be happy with one point, but after the game you have to be a little disappointed that you have given the game away," said Toronto FC head coach Aron Winter.
Palacios scored on a header early in the second half following a corner kick to give Pumas the tie when Toronto had hopes of making a first-half goal by Peri Marosevic stand up.
The draw gives Pumas eight points from their five games in the group while Toronto and FC Dallas each have seven. FC Dallas will play winless Tauro FC of Panama on Wednesday in the fifth game for both teams.
Toronto plays at Dallas on Oct. 18 in the final Group C match for both teams. Toronto will need some help now to advance beyond the group stage.
The game between Toronto and Pumas was much more competitive than when the teams met in Mexico City on Sept. 14. Pumas won 4-0, scoring all their goals in the first half.
"You can never compare TFC with Pumas because they're working with a bigger budget, a bigger roster, they're not in a rebuilding period like we are," Winter said. "They have more quality than us and they're a very good team. Last year they won the championship in Mexico and that says a lot."
"You looked at the way we played against Pumas, it was a completely different than how we played them in Mexico," Marosevic added.
This time Toronto had the lead at the half. Toronto made one substitute at the half with defender Doneil Henry replacing striker Danny Koevermans as Toronto played five at the back to try to protect it. Winter said after the game Koevermans was feeling fatigued and he wanted to put in a fresh player.
Palacios tied it with a header from the centre of the box in the 51st minute as he beat centre back Andy Iro. It came off a cross from Erick Vera after a corner kick.
"It's as simple as turning on a switch and just staying on your guy," Marosevic said. "Obviously it happens but it's been happening to us kind of often. We need to realize we have to be strong in the box and every single person has to take responsibility."
A couple of minutes after defender Richard Eckersley was taken out of the game with an injury in the 75th minute, Ryan Johnson nearly put Toronto ahead with a shot to the upper-left corner but keeper Odin Patino made the save.
Winter said he will know more tomorrow about Eckersley, one of Toronto's more industrious players, who appears to have a hamstring injury.
Pumas hit the post with less than 10 minutes to play when a shot hit Iro's head and banged off the right post.
Keeper Milos Kocic made a save off a free kick by Javier Cortes two minutes into stoppage after Ashtone Morgan picked up a yellow card for his foul.
Pumas had the better of the play in the first half but Toronto scored in the 35th minute on a goal by Marosevic.
Koevermans has been the main goal scorer for Toronto in recent games, but this time he was the playmaker. Johnson headed the ball off a long pass to Koevermans' feet and the striker played it back to Marosevic who placed his shot neatly into the lower right corner.
"Koevermans saw me at the top of the box, laid it off and I saw a wide-open corner," Marosevic said. "All I had to do was pass it in."
The goal came after Pumas had had the better chances. Michelle Castro forced Kocic to make the first save of the match in the eighth minute after Toronto's Nick Soolsma gave up the ball.
Marosevic had Toronto's first shot in the 17th minute but didn't get a strong shot and goalkeeper Patino handled it easily.
A couple of minutes later Pumas were unfortunate when Diego De Buen hit the left post with a booming shot from outside the penalty area.
Toronto FC was without Torsten Frings, Terry Dunfield and Mikael Yourassowsky because of yellow card accumulation. Pumas, meanwhile, opened with four starters from the side that started the game against Toronto in Mexico City.
Notes: Toronto FC has three games left in the MLS season with the next one Saturday at BMO Field against the New York Red Bulls. ... Joao Plata is still out with a strained hamstring. ... Eric Avila, who came to Toronto on Aug. 2, has not played because he is cup-tied to FC Dallas.