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FT: Toronto FC 1-3 Cruz Azul—Game thread, preview, and how to watch

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The current Liga MX leaders stand in the way of TFC and a continental semifinal berth. Follow along all of tonight’s action with Michael Singh.

MLS: Concacaf Champions League-Cruz Azul at Toronto FC Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Game Thread

FT: Toronto FC 1-3 Cruz Azul: It’ll be a mountain of a task for the Reds to score three at the Azteca next Tuesday.

90+1—Three minutes of added time...

85’—Eriq Zavaleta appears to take down Jonathan Rodriguez in the box, but VAR says no! 3-0 TFC tonight in that regard at least...

76’—Auro looking like Messi in the corner, putting the Cruz Azul player in a blender in the corner before a slick nutmeg. The play doesn’t amount to anything, but I thought it was really nice. Ayo Akinola checking into the game now for Ralph Priso.

76’—CHANCE! Michael Bradley receives a cut back at the top of the box from Tsubasa Endoh, and the skipper’s attempt at goal is blocked not once, but twice by Cruz Azul players. That was a real opportunity for the Reds, who will be pushing hard the rest of this match for a second goal to keep this tie alive.

72’—CHANCE! Cruz Azul hit the post. Gimenez gets himself inbetween the two CBs—it’s actually not poorly defended—but a great ball finds the head of the attacker. Thankfully the post is there to bail out Alex Bono and Toronto FC. If the Reds can get one back here, they’ll still have a chance... but I think they need one.

70’—At least Tej can provide us with some comedy.

68’—Tsubasa Endoh has entered the game for Jacob Shaffelburg. Endoh’s first appearance of the year after picking up a knock in training camp.

63’—Patrick Mullins and Nick DeLeon have entered the game for Jozy Altidore and Jonathan Osorio, by the way. So we’re good now. Right?

58’—GOAL! Cruz Azul 3-1 Toronto FC: Another set piece. I’m at a loss for words.

53’—TFC are in possession a lot more this half. Cruz Azul looks content to sit back and try and hit them off the counter/set pieces. Let’s see if the Reds have what it takes to break them down.

46’—We are back. No changes for Chris Armas’ side coming out of the half. I’ll say this now just to remind myself later: a 2-2 draw would be a great result if you’re TFC.

11:01 pm EST—Martyn Bailey shoutout on the OneSoccer broadcast from Andi. Love to see it.

HT: Toronto FC 1-2 Cruz Azul—An entertaining first half, but it’s not great for the Reds considering the Mexican league leaders have already found themselves a crucial two away goals. If you’re Chris Armas, what are you changing or tweaking?

42’—CHANCE! Morrow swings in another great ball which finds the head of Michael Bradley, but it deflects off the Azul defender and out for a corner. TFC are finding some room for chances here...

34’—GOAL! Cruz Azul 2-1 Toronto FC: Cruz Azul regain their lead off a corner kick as Angulo gets his second of the match. TFC do not like defending set pieces this season....

31’—Yellow card. Escobar goes into the book for taking down Jacob Shaffelburg. Shaff had him beat for pace 1 v 3. I love it from Shaff.

29’—I love VAR. Toronto FC up 2-0 in terms of VAR decisions as Gareth Wheeler mentioned on the broadcast. A Leon strike in the box clearly hits Jonathan Osorio on the arm, but no penalty was given. This game has been all sorts of entertaining early on.

22’—GOAA—hold up! Cruz Azul looks like they’ve retaken the lead just a minute after, but VAR is coming into play! Remember, VAR is in play for this CONCACAF match for the first time! And .... Wow, let’s go! NO GOAL! The Azul player was deemed offside.

20’—GOAAAAAL!! Toronto FC 1-1 Cruz Azul—Jonathan Osorio!!! Who else? Oso levels the game for Toronto FC. Great step by Justin Morrow, aggressive to cause the turnover before driving a low cross into Oso, who makes no mistake from six yards out. TFC have some belief here.

18’—Yellow Card. Early caution for Eriq Zavaleta—a very weak call. It looked like the Azul attacker went down really easily after a ball was played over the top. Regardless, Zavs will have to be extra careful for the rest of the match.

16’—Michael Bradley causes another turnover high up the field, turns and plays a great ball to Osorio, but the Canadian midfielder couldn’t find a streaking Mark Delgado at the far post. TFC have grown back into this game after a very shaky start.

14’—Best run of play for Toronto FC here as they show some patience on the ball before Eriq Zavaleta plays a beautiful forward pass to break down the Azul press. Shaffelburg eventually puts a cross in and it finds Altidore’s head, which leads to a scramble in the box, but the ball is eventually cleared by the Cruz Azul defenders. This looks better.

10’—10 minutes into this one, and so far, it’s been all Cruz Azul. The Mexican squad look like the team who want it more right now; that early goal certainly injected life into their side. They’re not giving TFC any space and are the ones getting on the front foot.

4’—GOAL! Cruz Azul 1-0 Toronto FC: Cruz Azul takes the early lead off a prolific strike from Angulo, who cuts in from the left side and rifles one into the top right-hand corner. Unstoppable, and that’s probably the worst start you could’ve imagined if you’re Toronto FC.

1’—We are off! TFC kicking off first from right to left. Come on you Reds!

10:03 pm EST—A few minutes away from kickoff now. No Richie Laryea (suspension) will be a massive loss for TFC, but this team has been preaching depth! No bigger test than tonight against the current league leaders in Liga MX!

9:56 pm EST—VAR is in play tonight! Friendly reminder! Would’ve been nice for it to be around for Okello’s goal vs. Club Leon!

9:48 pm EST—This pregame coverage on OneSoccer is awesome. KJ brings so much insight to the broadcast. Shout out to that whole team, especially our recent guests Terry Dunfield & of course friend of the site Andi Petrillo!

9:42 pm EST—Friendly reminder to leave your guesses for tonight’s final score in our prediction league! You get a bonus point if you guess the over/under on yellow cards tonight, set a 3.5 by our prediction league guru Martyn Bailey. I took the under ... and I’m in the mix for first, just saying ;)

9:35 pm EST—I pointed this out already in the starting XIs below, but no Jonathan Rodriguez tonight for Cruz Azul is huge. He’s currently leading all of Liga MX in scoring and is their biggest goal-scoring threat. Look out for him to come off the bench early on, but avoiding him at least a little bit is great for Toronto FC. Cruz Azul played on the weekend and they have another match this weekend, and with their side clinging on to first place, CCL may not be as much of a priority as the league would be. Just speculating, of course.

9:31 pm EST—As friend of the site c.beaulieu asked in our comment thread: “What does Quentin Westberg have to do to get a start?” Well, as Andi Petrillo mentioned on our pregame show, I think this is Bono’s net to lose at this point. New coach, new system, Q arrived late to camp, Bono’s taken the job and run with it. That being said, I do expect Q to make his first start of the season their next MLS game. Just a hunch.

9:20 pm EST—Welcome back folks! I know it’s a late one, but thank you all for joining us on tonight’s match thread. If you’re here tonight, staying up with us for a 10 pm kickoff, we know you’re a real one! But let’s be real, you know the occasion—and it doesn’t get much bigger than this. I said this on our pregame show earlier, but can you imagine what the atmosphere at BMO Field would be like? The liberty village tunnel would be wild. Let’s see if we can recreate that same vibe tonight. Come on you REDS!

Starting XI

Toronto FC Starting XI vs. Cruz Azul—Sorry folks, no Gator.

Bono; Morrow, Zavaleta, Gonzalez, Auro; Bradley, Priso, Delgado, Osorio; Shaffelburg, Altidore

Cruz Azul Starting XI vs. Toronto FC—Jonathan Rodriguez, Liga MX’s leading scorer, starts the game on the bench.

Corona; Romo, Aldrete, Escobar, Aguilar; Montoya, Rivero, Baca, Pineda, Alverado; Angulo

Match Preview (via Anthony Khoury)

TORONTO, Canada—After dispatching Club León in the first knockout round, Toronto FC will now face the current Liga MX leaders Cruz Azul in the 2021 CONCACAF Champions League quarter-finals.

TFC are the “hosts” in the first leg and will play this game at a location in Florida still to be determined. Kickoff is set for 10:00 pm EST on Tuesday, April 27, with OneSoccer airing this match along with all the other CCL quarter-final ties.

In the previous round, a 3-2 win on aggregate over León was enough for the 2018 runners-up to book their spot in the last eight, a result that many did not see coming given the number of TFC senior players that were ruled out due to injury.

Cruz Azul are one of three Mexican teams left in the tournament following their 8-0 mauling of Haitian side Arcahaie in the second leg of their round of 16 contest (the first leg finished goalless). El Azul will be gunning for a seventh overall title, with their last triumph coming in 2014 when they beat fellow Mexican side Toluca in the final on away goals.

As one of five MLS teams in the quarter-finals, TFC will need all hands on deck if they are to overcome the in-form Mexican side. Victory for Toronto would set up a semifinal showdown against either Monterrey or Columbus Crew.

Despite a disappointing draw with the Vancouver Whitecaps over the weekend, the Reds were bolstered by the return of a few of their first-team stars. Jonathan Osorio marked his first appearance of the season with a late equalizer off the bench and there is hope that he will start the upcoming CCL clash. Jozy Altidore also made his comeback following a short spell on the sidelines as he was subbed on for the last half hour of the 2-2 draw. Like Osorio, Ayo Akinola played his first minutes of the season against Vancouver, coming on for Noble Okello late in the second half.

On the injury front, Alejandro Pozuelo, Chris Mavinga, Erickson Gallardo, Liam Fraser, Julian Dunn and Ifunanyachi Achara were all out on Saturday, with TFC having yet to field what many consider their strongest starting lineup.

It looks like the Reds may be getting Mavinga back for this one, but they’ll also have to get the job done without Richie Laryea, who is suspended for the opening leg.

Armas and co. are four games into the 2021 campaign and currently have one win, two draws and one defeat to their name in all competitions. Toronto have scored seven goals in those four matches, a sign that Armas’ attacking-minded system is indeed in effect. Each of TFC’s seven strikes have come from seven different goalscorers, including defender Luke Singh, who bagged his first career goal over the weekend against Vancouver.

In spite of the bright goalscoring start to the season, TFC have already conceded eight times, a figure that will probably galvanize the Cruz Azul forwards.

The resilience of Toronto’s young crop has been one of the most exciting talking points of the season so far, but in the latter stages of competitions like the CCL, experience comes into play more than anything, and TFC will be looking to their veterans to lead the way against a side who are on quite the run in their domestic league.

Since January 17, 2021, Cruz Azul have gone 14 matches unbeaten in the Clausura, and have won 13 of those 14 games. They’ve remained top of the league since the end of February and have averaged 1.56 goals per game so far this season. Uruguayan international Jonathan Rodríguez leads Cruz Azul’s scoring in the league with nine, while former Sevilla midfielder Walter Montoya is the club’s top scorer in the CCL following his brace in their 8-0 drubbing of Arcahaie. Mexican midfielder Luis Romo, meanwhile, leads Liga MX with five assists to his name, so there’s quite a bit of fire power TFC have to be wary of.

Tuesday’s first leg will be the third meeting in history between TFC and Cruz Azul. The last time the two sides faced off was in the group stage of the 2010/11 edition of the tournament. Toronto claimed victory at BMO Field, recording a 2-1 win courtesy of goals from Martin Šarić and Mista, while the return fixture at the Estadio Azul finished in a goalless draw.

Against all other MLS clubs, Cruz Azul have won eight and lost three in 11 total outings. Their most recent opponent was LAFC, who beat the Mexican side 2-1 in the quarter-finals of last season’s CCL.

The round of 16 triumph over León was TFC’s third win in five against Mexican opposition over a two-legged tie. Despite this, Toronto has only recorded a total of four victories in 17 matches against clubs from Mexico.

As the second most successful team in competition’s history, Cruz Azul will have their sights firmly set on a seventh CCL crown, but as TFC showed in the last round, they are very much capable of causing an upset, so who’s to say they can’t do it again?

Ultimately, you have to beat the best to be the best, so let’s see what Armas’ men can do against quite the formidable opponent.

The second leg is scheduled for May 4 at the legendary Estadio Azteca in Mexico City.

How to Watch