BRIAN SCIARETTA - Thursday, October 25, 2012
Herculez Gomez's goal in the second half against Toronto FC secured Santos Laguna's spot in the CONCACAF Champions League.
Entering into the game, Toronto FC needed to defeat Santos Laguna by at least three goals to advance. However, it was Santos who emerged victorious, ending group play with a perfect 4-0-0 record.
Starting for Santos, Gomez went the full 90, while US U-20 winger Benji Joya started but was subbed out at halftime.
Playing at home, Santos began the game in conservative fashion knowing only a complete disaster would deny them a spot in the final eight of the tournament. Still, Toronto FC was able to earn quality chances early through Ryan Johnson and Reggie Lambe.
However, Santos 'keeper Miguel Becerra was up to the task and came up with several key saves.
Then, in the 73rd minute, Gomez ended whatever slim hopes Toronto had when he fired home an unstoppable shot from just inside the box, on the left side, past Toronto 'keeper Freddy Hall.
With the group phase over, Santos will enter the quarterfinals, where they will be joined by MLS clubs Houston Dynamo, LA Galaxy and Seattle Sounders.
Mexican clubs Tigres UANL and Monterrey have also earned spots in the final eight, as well as Herediano from Costa Rica. The final spot will be determined by the result of Thursday night's game between Mexico's Chivas de Guadalajara and Club Xelajú MC of Guatemala.