Home CONCACAF Pumas bring back the starters, maul TFC in Mexico

Pumas bring back the starters, maul TFC in Mexico

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After slipping up in their first two CONCACAF Champions League matches, Pumas UNAM flexed their muscles in Mexico City, battering Toronto FC 4-0.

It could have been eight.

Argentine striker Martin Bravo scored three times in the first half as Pumas got out to a four-goal lead by halftime. In the second half, it was the Milos Kocic show, as Toronto’s back-up keeper made a series of spectacular saves to keep Pumas from putting up a truly embarrassing goal total.

The floodgates opened in the 16th minute, as former Mexican national-teamer Juan Francisco Palencia lofted a ball into the penalty area that Bravo was able to chest down. Bravo blew by centre back Ty Harden and beat Kocic before defender Ashtone Morgan could get there.

Then, came the sequence that broke the Reds; Ryan Johnson had a great chance in the 19th minute, but his volleyed attempt at an equalizer was palmed away by leaping Pumas keeper Odin Patino. Within a minute, Bravo had made a darting run down the left side that TFC defender Andy Iro could not contain. He cut the ball back for Efrain Velarde, who recently made his Mexican national-team debut, to smash into an open goal.

And that was the rub; when Pumas was shocked at home by FC Dallas to open the competition, the Mexican powerhouse had left its stars on the bench. Now desperate for points, the big guns played — and they tore the fatigued and sluggish central defence of TFC to shreds. And the inexperience of Morgan and defender Doneil Henry was shown in the Reds’ lack of organization in the back. When you go to altitude, to play in a hostile environment, you have to be prepared to soak up pressure. TFC’s dam burst early in the first half and couldn’t be plugged.

On the third goal, Bravo outran Harden to a long, bouncing pass into a dangerous area, and volleyed the ball past Kocic. Bravo completed the hat trick by going in alone and scoring after TFC’s attempt to catch him offside failed miserably when the back line couldn’t push up as a single unit.

Iro, mercifully, came out of the game in the 39th minute.

The second half saw Pumas continue its domination — and the Mexicans should have had more.

Kocic made a series of saves; but the most memorable saw him come out and challenge Eduardo Herrera and rob the Pumas substitute as he was alone in front of goal. Kocic was credited with seven saves on the night.

Now, TFC sits in third place in its group, four points behind FC Dallas and a point behind Pumas. The task is clear; the Reds have to beat Tauro at home; but the Panamanian side has improved as the tourney has progressed. After losing to the Reds in the opener, Tauro has drawn both Pumas and FC Dallas.

But you have to assume that Pumas will beat Tauro when they meet in Mexico City. That means anything other than a win by the Reds over Pumas in Toronto could be fatal — especially if the Reds can’t steal anything in Dallas.

With FC Dallas being four ahead of the Reds (with three games each to go) and already owning a road win over Toronto FC, the Reds need to consider their fellow MLS side uncatchable.

Pumas is a point up and, unless the Reds can beat the Mexicans by four or more in Toronto, will hold the tiebreaker against TFC.

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