Home Global Game CONCACAF TFC sticks to game plan for second leg against Real Esteli

TFC sticks to game plan for second leg against Real Esteli

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After coming back to tie Portland in MLS action Saturday, Toronto FC switches gears again to prepare for the second leg of CONCACAF Champions League (CCL) qualifying round. This week the venue will be drastically different – there will be no friendly, yet empty confines of BMO Field for the Reds. Instead, on Tuesday night TFC will have to deal with a hostile and intimidating crowd as it makes its first visit to Nicaragua to face Real Esteli F.C.

The Nicaraguan club is based in the city of Esteli and play out of Estadio Independencia – a stadium that only has a capacity of 4,800. The venue pales in comparison to the much bigger stadiums in MLS. Despite the size, it should be packed full of fans that will do anything to help give an advantage to the home team.

The experience should be an eye opener for most Toronto players, but the club does have a few players that have played in similar venues in the past – whether playing for their club or country. Forward Ryan Johnson is from Jamaica and is all too familiar with playing in the CONCACAF region.

“I know exactly what to expect,” said Johnson. “I know the fields aren’t going to be good. I know it’s going to be very humid, it’s going to be a pretty hostile atmosphere. They’re going to have all their friends and family supporting them, but it’s for us to stay together as a team and support each other on the field, on the bench — everybody. That’s what it’s going to take for us to get the result we’re looking for. I expect to win.”

Despite having never played in Central America before, Torsten Frings believes that his team will be able to shrug off any hostility or distractions that may happen.

“Obviously, I don’t know quite know how dangerous the situation there is but I feel that we’re going to be safe there and I feel like nothing really is going to happen,” said Frings through an interpreter. “I’ve been told how it is down there, but I hope everything goes well and safe. And that we can just go down there play the game, come back and hopefully nothing ever happens.”

After the first leg, Frings was more concerned with TFC’s defence than its safety heading into the second leg. Last week, TFC dominated the match from beginning to end with the exception of a late sloppy goalkeeping error by backup ‘keeper Milos Kocic.

“I feel the team needs to work on receiving less goals in total,” added Frings. “This team is not as strong as other teams from the MLS. So we just have to work harder, practice that more and that we have less.

“I feel already today that we played a better short game – not the kick and run. I feel that we just need to grow stronger as a team together. We just have to focus more on playing the game than just the basic kick-and-run game in that sense.”

Aerial Battle

Head Coach and Technical Director Aron Winter had a specific offensive game plan in mind in the first match. The goal was to make the field wide by using players on the flanks to send balls over the top and into the box to create scoring opportunities. Although none of the chances led to goals, both Johnson and Danny Koevermans were able to flick numerous headers on goal.

“We saw the way they play and we play the way we want to play against them to beat them,” said Winter. “The early cross from the beginning because of the offence – you got Johnson, Koevermans – and that’s why for me you have to give the cross.”

Johnson admitted that the height difference between his club and Esteli was another factor in employing Winter’s strategy.

“That’s the kind of game I like to play,” said Johnson. “At the same time, it is an advantage for us because of their height and our height. We created chances and the game plan did get executed, we just didn’t put the ball into the back of the net as much as we wanted to. But that’s something we’re going to want to do when we go down there. Things shouldn’t change — they’re going to have the same height, we’re going to have the same height — let’s keep on doing the same thing.”

Despite all the missed chances, Johnson believes it will be just a matter of time before the balls start hitting the back of the net.

“For me, I’d rather us create chances than not create chances,” added Johnson. “Because when you play in those games when you’re not even creating chances it’s the most frustrating thing in the world. For us, creating chances, getting chances on goal, the keeper has to make a save — those are the things you want. Sometimes you score and sometimes you don’t. The keeper made some good saves off my headers so my hats off to him, but those are the chances we should be creating and we are. Sometimes those are going to fall and it’s going to be 4-0 or 3-0. As long as we’re creating those chances – that’s great.”

Although Toronto leads 2-1 on aggregate heading into the match, Esteli does have the all important away goal. This means a 1-0 loss by TFC would eliminate them from the CCL. However, the players remain optimistic about its chances of advancing to the group stage.

“I’m very confident,” said Johnson. “If we don’t get the job done I’ll be beyond disappointed. I’ll be pretty angry. We definitely need to rally together, make sure we’re tough as possible, to be just be men out there and take care of business in Nicaragua.”

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