Aside from the fact that they're clearly a very talented team, are top of the table in Mexico and absolutely hammered Seattle, who you know, just hammered Toronto, what do you know about Toronto FC's CCL opponents Santos Laguna? Not all that much? Me neither really. Fortunately Eben Lehman of SB Nation's Mexican league blog FMF State of Mind does and he's answered some questions to give you an idea of what and who to be afraid of, and after the jump, what weaknesses TFC might be able to exploit. So, Santos laguna. How you doin'?
WTR: We all watched Santos sit back and then rip Seattle apart on the counter attack. Is that a fairly standard tactic that we'll see again from Santos?
FMFSOM: As we saw in the last round, Santos is a fantastic counter-attacking team, and Seattle certainly had issues defending against it. Santos is a squad with a ton of speed, and opposing teams have to be able to recover quickly and defend along the wings. With Daniel Luduena and Juan Pablo Rodriguez (two players who roam the middle of the field--Rodriguez in the back and Luduena up front) not making the trip to Toronto, there will probably be even more emphasis on that counter attack down the sidelines. On the left side look out for Christian Suarez, and on the right side look out for both Herculez Gomez and Ivan Estrada. If given any space, all three of these players are adept at picking out Oribe Peralta in the middle and setting him up to score.
WTR: Santos are having a very good league season so far, currently top of the table. Is there a chance they'll rest some first team players to concentrate on the league? Also who are the best players TFC should really be looking out for?
FMFSOM: Other than Luduena, who will be resting after a knock over the weekend, and Rodriguez, who will sit due to yellow card accumulation, manager Benjamin Galindo will bring a full strength squad to Toronto. Santos has a relatively tough league schedule over the next month (including road games against Toluca and America, and a home game against Tigres), but the club will not overlook a great chance to win the CCL trophy.
The best players will be up front for Santos--the previously mentioned Peralta, Suarez, and Gomez, plus Carlos Darwin Quintero who has returned from injury and may start on Wednesday. There is obviously loads of talent in the attacking third, and it is no surprise that Santos are the second-highest scoring team in the Mexican Primera this season (not to mention their seven goals scored in the two matches against Seattle).
WTR: Give us some hope here. What are Santos' weak spots? And how can TFC take advantage of them?
FMFSOM: Toronto needs to challenge Santos in the midfield and do their best to win the possession battle. This is where they may be able to take advantage of the loss of Rodriguez, who is a key veteran and an anchor in the central midfield for Santos. Attacking down the right side should be a point of emphasis for Toronto, as left back has been a reoccurring problem area for Santos this season. Santos can also be vulnerable on set pieces. Other than Felipe Baloy, their defenders can be beaten in the air. But overall the flaws are few and far between. Santos has won four straight league games, and currently sit in first place in the Mexican Primera standings.
It must be noted, though, that the team is coming off a relatively sub-par effort over the weekend. Yes, they won Saturday's match 2-0, but they were playing the worst team in the league (Queretaro) and had a two man advantage for most of the second half. Santos should have been able to create more easy scoring opportunities, but after a first half penalty they only managed one more goal (scored, of course, by Herculez Gomez who has been absolutely on fire over the past few weeks). You never know how much of that type of effort will carry over from one game to the next, but maybe Toronto can catch an overconfident Santos team off guard in the early going.