Wilson Tiago (pictured) acknowledges the Toluca fans after converting on what proved to be the deciding penalty in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal series against the San Jose Earthquakes on March 19, 2014. (Photo: Mexsport)
TOLUCA, Mexico – In a match-up that required 210 minutes of play and six rounds of penalties in order to find a resolution, Toluca advanced to the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals for a second time.
On Wednesday, the Red Devils eliminated the San Jose Earthquakes in dramatic fashion, 5-4 on kicks from the spot, after the series finished 2-2 on aggregate. It was the first-time in the tournament’s history that penalty kicks were used in the knockout rounds and third overall.
In his post-match press conference, Toluca head coach Jose Cardozo spoke about his team’s finishing.
“They (San Jose) cleared two of three off the line,” said Toluca’s all-time leading scorer. “We missed on two or three and lacked a goal in the first half to calm ourselves, and then it was the reverse. We needed a goal to be able to push for penalties and it wasn’t easy. Not finishing plays outside the area cost us more.”
The Paraguayan also praised the atmosphere inside the Estadio Nemesio Díez, where Toluca received vociferous support. The fans’ cheering reminded Cardozo of the days when he wore the red jersey.
“The atmosphere, the penalties (the shout of ‘yes, you can’) reminds me of when we won the title against Atlas also in penalties, it reminded me of the ’99 final,” Cardozo noted. “Fortune was on our side a little and Talavera’s stop was also key.”
Despite being ousted, the Earthquakes left the field with their heads held high, a feeling that was expressed by winger Atiba Harris via his Twitter account.
“Playing at one of the highest stadiums against a tough opponent didn’t stop us from fighting to the end,” Harris penned. “Proud of my teammates.”
Toluca will meet the winner of the quarterfinal between Alajuelense and Arabe Unido.