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Toronto FC forward Cassius Mailula and CS Saint-Laurent goalkeeper Jae Kyum Jeon battle for the ball during the first half at BMO Field. Toronto won 8-1 on May 21, 2024.John E. Sokolowski/Reuters

Toronto FC is headed to the Canadian Championship semi-finals after setting a tournament-scoring record in an 8-1 win Tuesday, completing an 11-1 aggregate victory over Ligue1 Quebec champion CS Saint-Laurent.

Saint-Laurent returns home with a little history of its own after becoming the first semi-pro side to score against a Major League Soccer team in the cup competition. And while Tuesday’s score was lopsided and Saint-Laurent finished the game with 10 men, the Quebec side hit the woodwork twice, had nine corners to Toronto’s three and outshot Toronto 22-13 (11-10 in shots on target).

“We showed Montreal, Quebec, everybody in Canada that we can play soccer,” said Saint-Laurent captain Wesley Wandje. “That’s the goal we had before coming here. So I’m proud of that.”

When not playing football, the 24-year-old Wandje studies finance at university and works for Sunwing at the Montreal airport.

Deandre Kerr had four goals as eight-time champion Toronto scored early and often.

The eight goals, one of which was a Saint-Laurent own goal, set a tournament record, erasing the mark set by Atletico Ottawa in a 7-0 drubbing of Valour FC on May 1 in preliminary-round play. It was also a Toronto club record.

“I think it showed the quality gap between the teams, of course,” said Saint-Laurent coach Nick Razzaghi. “They were very much here to play, which is a sign of big respect towards our players.”

Saint-Laurent played some attractive football at times against well-heeled MLS opposition, albeit an essentially reserve side Tuesday. But Toronto converted its chances and led 3-0 after 43 minutes with Kerr accounting for all three goals.

Things went from bad to worse in the 45th minute when Saint-Laurent’s veteran Tunisian defender Oussama Boughanmi was shown a straight red card when he caught Alonso Coello with a boot to the face. It was unintentional but reckless.

Cassius Mailula, Derrick Etienne Jr. and Prince Owusu also scored for Toronto, which marked its second hat trick in as many games. Italian Federico Bernardeschi had three in Saturday’s 5-1 league win over CF Montreal.

Kerr, who backs up Owusu in MLS play, now has five goals in Canadian Championship play this year. The 21-year-old from Toronto has eight goals in 58 career MLS games.

He becomes the first player to score four goals in a Canadian Championship match and the first TFC player to score four goals in a game.

Toronto’s second-half goals came on a deflected shot by Mailula in the 50th minute, from the penalty spot by Etienne in the 56th, an own goal by Nathan Goulet in the 62nd, Kerr’s fourth in the 72nd and Owusu in the 80th.

Rickson Aristilde pulled one back for Saint-Laurent in the 89th minute.

“I know the score line is what it is, but they took some big steps,” said an appreciative Toronto coach John Herdman. “Getting their first goal, inside I was actually happy for them. I thought they’d done enough to get a goal tonight.”

Saint Laurent had also won kudos for its play in the 3-0 first-leg loss, holding Toronto scoreless for 50 minutes on May 8 at the Complexe sportif Claude-Robillard.

“There’s a tremendous amount of positives to take out of this and, of course, a huge amount of lessons,” Razzaghi said. “But that’s why we’re here.”

Wandje said Saint-Laurent was buoyed by shutting TFC out in the first half of the first leg.

“We were like OK we’re playing a team that plays in the league of (Lionel) Messi. That’s crazy.”

But Toronto wasted little time putting the minnow to the sword Tuesday with goals by Kerr in the 12th and 14th minutes before a crowd of 9,148 on a warm evening at BMO Field. While the hole got deeper for the Quebec side, it did not fold and asked questions of a makeshift Toronto backline and goalkeeper Luka Gavran.

Saint-Laurent outshot Toronto 11-5 (4-4 in shots on target) in the first half. But its defence was found wanting.

Toronto will find out May 29 who it faces in the semi-final with Canada Soccer holding a draw to determine the semi-final matchups and sites for the two-legged series.

The defending champion Vancouver Whitecaps, holding a 2-1 lead from the first leg, hosted Cavalry FC in Tuesday’s late quarter-final match.

On Wednesday, CF Montreal hosts CPL champion Forge FC with the aggregate score tied at 1-1.

On May 29, Atletico Ottawa visits Pacific FC after a scoreless first leg.

Herdman made nine changes to his starting lineup from the weekend with only Lorenzo Insigne and Coello retaining their spot. Tuesday’s lineup featured seven of the same starters from the first leg.

Insigne, who captained the side, made his first start on the weekend following two cameos off the bench in the wake of an eight-game injury absence. He played a part in Toronto’s first two goals before exiting after 33 minutes.

The cup date was TFC’s ninth game in 31 days, with league outings against Cincinnati and Philadelphia still to come in what Herdman calls “May madness.”

Saint-Laurent retained nine of the 11 starters from the first leg.

Toronto blanked League1 Ontario’s Simcoe County Rovers 5-0 in the single-game preliminary round while Saint-Laurent upset the CPL’s Halifax Wanderers in a penalty shootout in the cup preliminary round.

The Canadian Championship winner hoists the Voyageurs Cup and qualifies for the CONCACAF Champions Cup, the elite men’s club competition in North and Central America and the Caribbean.

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