Home Global Game CONCACAF Despite shortened preseason, Winter says TFC is ready for CCL quarter-final

Despite shortened preseason, Winter says TFC is ready for CCL quarter-final

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Entering its biggest match in franchise history, there is no question that TFC will be playing the role of underdog on Wednesday night.

Playing in the warm confines of a sold-out Rogers Centre and in front of its biggest crowd ever, TFC’s home field advantage in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal will be crucial to the team’s hopes. But, on the pitch it will be a completely different story.

The Galaxy is the defending MLS champ and was almost unbeatable last season. But anything can happen in football, especially when the season starts anew. As stated since the match-up was announced, TFC Head Coach and Technical Director Aron Winter is not focused so much on LA. as he is on his own squad.

“We’re going to play our own game,” said Winter. “We know their strengths and weaknesses.”

Designated player and Danny Koevermans played up the underdog role but didn’t seem very confident when asked if his team was ready for the big game.

“I think so but we’ll see tomorrow after the game,” said Koevermans. “Everybody can judge for that. I think we’re ready to play.

“We’re underdogs. We’ve got everything to win and they have everything to lose. They are the champions. They won it all last season so it’s a nice game for us to see where we stand.”

Using the words “I think” aren’t exactly words that give off the air of confidence and a team that believes it can win. Koevermans has also been on record saying that the players and fans should just enjoy the game and to go out and get a good result. When a team truly believes it can win you hear the words along the lines of “definitely” — an absolute statement. But perhaps the team is just happy to be here.

Goalkeeper Stefan Frei gave a similar answer and maybe tipped his hat as to the reason why the team may not be feeling very confident without as much saying it – not enough games against quality opponents.

“Yeah I think so,” said Frei when asked his team was ready to go. “The preseason I think you want to build up some confidence. Although we played against Dallas, maybe not their ‘A’ squad I think we gave a solid effort and good result — worked out well for us.

“We got some game fitness and confidence out of it and that’s all you want out of preseason. Now obviously the pressure increases a little bit because now the games really matter and I think we’re anxious to prove what we can do.”

So there are some obvious concerns as to how prepared this team actually is, especially in comparison to L.A. The Galaxy played several MLS teams in its preseason including Portland Timbers, Houston Dynamo, Montreal Impact, Chivas USA, Real Salt Lake, New York Red Bulls and the New England Revolution twice.

Toronto’s preseason consisted of only two matches against MLS clubs, a match against FC Dallas (that did not play its entire first team) and then TFC played its reserves against the Vancouver Whitecaps. The Reds played other matches at Walt Disney World against Swedish club BK Hacken and USL team Orlando City.

Despite the assertion that they did not have as quality of a preseason as the Galaxy, both Winter and first assistant coach Bob de Klerk brushed off any notion that their team is underprepared.

“Yeah, my preseason was very good,” said Winter. “We’ve done it recently, starting the preseason training, building the physical and conditioning aspect, and play(ing) against opponents not straight on a high level and (then) build(ing) up everything. And, we have done it well. And I’m happy with our training camp, also, the opponents that we have played against.”

Added de Klerk, “Yeah, but if you look at the games that L.A. played against other MLS teams they were not completely with the strongest team so it’s exactly the same.

“And they play against teams from the MLS are also not complete so I don’t see the difference.”

Neither Winter nor de Klerk brought up L.A.’s play in the preseason which wasn’t exactly stellar to say the least. The Galaxy finished with a 4-4 record but were missing several regulars in those games — including Landon Donovan, who was with Everton, and Robbie Keane, with Aston Villa — and that certainly contributed to the results on the field.

Galaxy Head Coach Bruce Arena was a little more forthright in the assessment of his team’s preseason.

“It’s gone OK. We obviously haven’t had a large nucleus of our players together in the preseason, but it’s been all right, but I think for our young players in particular, it’s been real good.”

So are the teams actually ready? The answer is not exactly clear. Being the first real game of the year for both teams this could understandably be a bore-fest. Both teams will be shaking off the offseason rust and Wednesday’s game might not turn out to be the spectacle that 45,000 plus fans are hoping to see.

As Koevermans put it – everyone will have to watch tomorrow to find out.

 

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