CONCACAF Champions League Archive

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Elementary mistakes expose Toronto FC in Mexico

As the dust settles after Toronto FC’s 6-2 loss Wednesday on the road to Santos Laguna, no one is going to talk about the talent gap on the field — the best team in Mexico against the only team in MLS without a point.

No one is going to talk about just how incredible it was that a poor MLS team was able to get hot and get to the semifinals of the CONCACAF Champions League.

No, people will talk about the plethora of self-inflicted wounds that brought on a green-and-white flood of second-half goals in Torreon. From Julian de Guzman to Miguel Aceval to Ty Harden, TFC’s valiant effort to get to the finals of the CCL was undone by errors.

At halftime, TFC defied critics by being tied 2-2 with a team that hasn’t lost at home this season. But, by the 64-minute mark of the game, it was all but over.
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Toronto FC ready for anything and everything in Torreon

Ryan Johnson

After an intense first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League against Santos Laguna at BMO Field, Toronto FC is not going to rule anything out when it lands in Mexico Tuesday.

A post-game dust-up between the two teams resulted after defender Ashtone Morgan was head butted by Santos Laguna’s Darwin Quintero and the bad blood will surely be carried over. TFC forward Ryan Johnson told reporters after practice on Monday that Santos players were very serious in their warnings on the pitch and in the tunnel after the game.

“Coming off in the tunnel in here those were the words that were said and other words too that I don’t want to repeat but it’s going to be a tough one,” said Johnson, talking specifically of the warnings of war.

“It’s going to happen. I believe that a 100 per cent. They’re not joking around when they say that. It’s in the heat of the moment, but they’re making a promise that’s how it’s going to be when we’re down there. I believe that 100 per cent. So we go to match it – it’s a reality it’s going to happen.”
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Single mistake costs TFC dearly against the Crew

Bernardo Anor

Toronto FC has very little margin for error.  For a team that’s struggling to both consistently defend and, increasingly, struggling to score goals, one mistake is all it takes to waste a strong performance.  Such was the case on Saturday, when TFC largely outplayed the Columbus Crew but came up on the wrong end of a 1-0 result at BMO Field.

The key moment of the game occurred in the 56th minute, when a Toronto surge quickly became a counter-attack after a Julian de Guzman turnover at midfield.  Columbus midfielder Bernardo Anor was the point man for a give-and-go series of passes and was in position in front of TFC’s net for a cross.  Reds centre back Logan Emory was in position to cut the ball off but his clearance attempt went right to Anor, who fired it in for the goal.

It was a tough error for Emory, made doubly worse since he had delivered a strong performance up to that moment.  Toronto’s back line has already been thinned by injuries and international absences so, with Miguel Aceval nursing a bad hamstring, Emory — who played with the NASL’s Puerto Rico Islanders in 2011 — got the opportunity for his second start.

Emory left before speaking to reporters, but his teammates were quick to point the finger at the team’s overall failure to capitalize as the reason for the defeat.
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4

TFC and Santos Laguna trade goals… and punches

Carlos Darwin Quintero, the hero of Santos Laguna's 2009 triumph over the Montreal Impact, was sent off Wednesday.

An increasingly chippy game boiled over at the end of Toronto FC’s 1-1 draw with Santos Laguna on Wednesday night at BMO Field, promising an even more heated match in next week’s return leg of the CONCACAF Champions League semifinal tie.

As the final whistle blew, an altercation between Reds defender Ashtone Morgan and Santos striker Darwin Quintero led to a full-on scrum between the two teams.  Both benches cleared and, while no further blows were thrown, both sides left knowing that the final score would be settled next Wednesday.

“They already warned us that it’s going to be a war over there and we know that ourselves,” said TFC captain Julian de Guzman.  “We’ve already had that experience playing at Cruz Azul and Pumas.  We know what type of atmosphere it’s going to be over there and now we’ve sparked up some more fire after this game for these guys.  We’re ready for it, we’re looking forward to it and the guys are prepared.”
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TFC will try to keep things tight against Santos Laguna

Ryan Johnson

Toronto FC was an underdog against the MLS champion Los Angeles Galaxy heading into the CONCACAF Champions League quarter-final, but with captain Torsten Frings organizing the team from the middle, the Reds advanced in shocking fashion.

Now up against Santos Laguna, a team that is tied for top spot in the Mexican first division, to say the Reds are underdogs is a big understatement. The Mexican club easily dispatched Seattle Sounders 7-3 on aggregate in another quarter-final including a 6-1 win in Torreon after losing 2-1 at Seattle.

“Very good team I think,” said Assistant Coach Bob de Klerk who ran Tuesday’s practice. “If you watch our game against Pumas in Mexico (last year), we had a difficult time over there, very difficult match. And they’re in the league in Mexico and higher than Pumas. That says enough.”
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Terrible TFC defending to blame for three-goal loss in home opener

Chris Wondolowski: Scored twice

If there was any question of Torsten Frings’ value to Toronto FC, his absence for most of the last two matches has proven just how badly the Reds need their captain.

TFC dropped a 3-0 result to the San Jose Earthquakes in front of 20,753 disappointed fans at BMO Field on Saturday in the club’s home opener.  It was Toronto’s first full game without Frings, who suffered a hamstring injury early in last week’s 3-1 loss in Seattle and will be out of action until late April at the earliest.  Without Frings holding the fort at defensive midfield and providing cover on the back line, the holes in TFC’s defence were been badly exposed for the second time in as many weeks.

“We’ve had a big loss of Torsten not there to organize the team on the pitch,” said TFC head coach Aron Winter.  “At the moment he’s not available to play [so] we have to fix the back line….We have to resolve those problems.”
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Frings to miss TFC home opener, CONCACAF Champions League dates

Torsten Frings

Toronto FC will be without its anchor for not only Saturday’s home opener, but for its CONCACAF Champions League semifinal against Mexican powerhouse Santos Laguna.

The club confirmed Tuesday that Designated Player Torsten Frings will miss the next four to six weeks with a right hamstring strain. Frings had to leave Saturday’s MLS season opener in Seattle just after the 20-minute mark after he extended himself to make a sliding, saving challenge.

Of course, saving Toronto’s defensive bacon is part of Frings’ job description. Throughout the preseason and through the CCL quarter-final upset of the Los Angeles, Frings has been slotted into a sweeper role, acting as cover for Ty Harden and Miguel Aceval in the centre of the Reds’ back line. Frings is also TFC’s best option to move the ball out of the back. With Frings in against Seattle, the Reds were out of step against a very quick Seattle attack; with Frings out of the lineup, the Reds simply looked lost.
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TFC’s defensive frailties exposed by Estrada, Sounders

David Estrada

Just three days after winning its biggest match in club history, Toronto FC got a reality check.

Playing against a Seattle Sounders team that had something to prove after it received a 6-1 hiding from Santos Laguna CONCACAF Champions League action, TFC reminded its supporters that its back line is still too slow, too disorganized.

David Estrada scored three times as the Sounders won its MLS home opener 3-1 in front of more than 38,000 fans, but this was far more than one player having a good day. It was a case of a Seattle Sounders — a team which doesn’t have the star power of the Los Angeles Galaxy but plays at a much faster pace — running TFC’s back line ragged.

And, when TFC — already down 1-0 — lost Torsten Frings to injury after he was forced to make a last ditch saving tackle after TFC’s high line had been unlocked, the soft underbelly lost its armour. Frings had been successfully utilized as a sweeper to try and mask Toronto FC’s defensive defencies through Toronto’s two-legged CCL triumph over the Galaxy; without Frings, the Reds were left exposed.
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Quarter-final rewind: Winter won the coaching battle over Arena

Aron Winter

Bruce Arena

When you think of who the best all-time coach in MLS, Bruce Arena’s name will come up more often than not. MLS Cups with multiple franchises, former U.S. national-team coach and architect of what’s arguably the greatest dynasty this league has ever seen, the D.C. United squad of the late ‘90s.

But, as Toronto FC fans bask in the afterglow of their team’s fantastic victory over Arena and his Galaxy in the CONCACAF Champions League quarter-finals, they should think to one area where the Reds held a major advantage over the MLS champs.

Aron Winter outmanaged and outcoached Arena in the second leg. Winter made the right decisions, while Arena struggled to adjust. And the coaching decisions could very well have been the deciding factors in the quarters.
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Toronto FC the last MLS team standing in CCL

Milos Kocic: Robbed Robbie Keane late in the match

If, last July, someone was to predict that Toronto FC would be the last MLS team standing in the CONCACAF Champions League, they’d have been offered some pretty sweet odds.

But, there it is — after TFC played a cagey road game Wednesday in front of a smattering of Los Angeles soccer loyalists at the Home Depot Center, the Reds are the only team to qualify for the CCL’s final four. A second half goal from Nick Soolsma, combined with sterling performances from forward Ryan Johnson and goalkeeper Milos Kocic, gave the Reds a 2-1 win over the Galaxy in the second leg of their CCL quarterfinal, and a 4-3 triumph on aggregate.

The Reds will now face Herculez Gomez and Santos Laguna in the semifinal. And it won’t be easy. The Mexican powerhouse smashed six past the Seattle Sounders Wednesday.
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