These are upbeat times for Canadian soccer. The Vancouver Whitecaps won their opener after a poor expansion season. The Montreal Impact will make their MLS home debut before more than 50,000 this weekend at Olympic Stadium. The women’s national team qualified for the Olympics and the junior women’s squad secured passage to the Under-20 World Cup. Heck, MLS’s reigning most valuable player (Dwayne De Rosario) is from Ontario.
And after Wednesday night, Toronto FC was the lone league representative standing in the CONCACAF Champions League after upsetting the Los Angeles Galaxy, 2-1, in the second leg of a quarterfinal series. [Video here.] Former D.C. United prospect Milos Kocic made several fine saves for TFC.
It was a rough night for the American sides in MLS: While the glamorous Galaxy squandered an opportunity to further enhance its brand globally, the Seattle Sounders embarrassed themselves with a 6-1 loss at Santos Laguna in Mexico, resulting in a 7-3 aggregate defeat. American striker Herculez Gomez maintained his fine form with two goals for Santos, which will face Toronto in the semifinals March 27 and April 3.
Defending champion Monterrey will play Pumas or Metapan (El Salvador) in the other bracket.
So a year after Real Salt Lake fell one match short of becoming the first MLS team to reach the Club World Cup, the league’s hopes in 2012 rest, improbably, with a Toronto side that has never enjoyed a winning season and failed to qualify for the playoffs in each of its previous five campaigns.
MLS Commissioner Don Garber, not immune to Twitter gaffes, tweeted after the victory at Home Depot Center: “Congratulations to #TFC for CCL semi final victory and first trip to finals for a Canadian club.”
Oops. He corrected himself 12 minutes later: “I meant to say ‘first trip to CCL semi-finals’ -- but can’t help that I am hopeful!”