Toronto FC will be heading to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park next week, as they take on the Colorado Rapids in the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League last 16 tie. A week after, Greg Vanney’s clan will host the Rapids, in what could be the coldest night ever in the competition, with projected temperatures hovering at sub-zero so far.
In what will be their sixth participation in the continental championship, the 2018 edition, unlike in the past, is a plausible objective for the Canadian team as they aim to complete their silverware quest following last year’s domestic treble which included the coveted MLS Cup.
While like all of you, we are excited to see what this year will bring up in The Six, let’s roll back the years and reminisce on how TFC has fared in this competition in the past.
- vs. Puerto Rico Islanders (NASL) 0–1 on aggregate (preliminary round)
Okay, it was not the ideal baptism by fire in this competition for a three-year-old team. Nonetheless, it was a learning curve which helped the Reds to gain more experience at continental level, which definitely left an impact in the years to come.
Kendall Jagdeosingh netted what proved to be difference between the two sides, when he found the base of the net (and what a goal that was) in the first leg at BMO Field, to clinch a group phase berth.
Under Chris Cummins as interim manager, Toronto boasted talents like Julian de Guzman and Dwayne De Rosario, two Canadian legends, but still failed to leave a lasting impact on the competition.
- vs. C.D. Motagua (Honduras) 3–2 on aggregate (preliminary round)
- vs. Arabe Unido (Panama) 1–0, 0–1 (group stage)
- vs. Cruz Azul (Mexico) 2–1, 0–0 (group stage)
- vs. Real Salt Lake (MLS) 1–1, 1–4 (group stage)
So, TFC managed to register some brilliant results in the group phase... but, they lost to the bottom side, a defeat which cost them qualification.
In fact, Arabe Unido of Panama, emerged winner in just one group match, and that was in their second outing against Toronto, at home.
Afterwards, TFC managed to claim impressive results, in particular their 2–1 win over Cruz Azul at home. 2004 UEFA Cup winner with Valencia, Mista, scored the winner for the Reds in that one.
Nonetheless, there was the feeling that TFC’s style of play had enhanced continental soccer, and there was a general optimism of what type of challenge they could provide in their future participations.
- vs. Real Esteli FC (Nicaragua) 4–2 on aggregate (preliminary round)
- vs. FC Dallas (MLS) 0–1, 3–1 (group stage)
- vs. Tauro FC (Panama) 1–0, 2–1 (group stage)
- vs. Pumas UNAM (Mexico) 1–1, 0–4 (group stage)
- vs. Los Angeles Galaxy (MLS) 4–3 on aggregate (quarter-final)
- vs. Santos Laguna (Mexico) 3–7 (semi-final)
Well, a TFC version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde took part in this competition.
Under the guidance of Aron Winter, they became the first Canadian side to reach the semi-finals of this competition, a proper trail blazer for the entire soccer community in North America. That was the Jekyll part.
The Hyde part was when they lost 6–2 in Mexico, against a very strong Santos Laguna side and in a game in which TFC actually drew first blood.
Nonetheless, it would be a HUGE mistake not to underline the Reds’ biggest result in this competition: the 2–1 victory over the glamorous LA Galaxy, with the likes of David Beckham, Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane and a young Juninho forming a talented core for the Californian side.
I think it would be fair to say that that was Ryan Johnson’s best performance with a TFC kit, scoring the first goal and providing the assist for the winning goal. I definitely want to see that resilience and winning mentality in this year’s competition.
- vs. C.D. Aguila (El Salvador) 5–1, 3–0 (group stage)
- vs. Santos Laguna (Mexico) 1–3, 0–1 (group stage)
TFC’s last appearance was six years ago, when the Canadian side was part of a three-team group in which they locked horns with a technically-poor team like C.D. Aguila, whom they put eight goals past in two games. The other opponent was Santos Laguna, again.
The Liga MX side triumphed in both encounters as TFC headed home early from the competition, a year after reaching the last four in the same tournament.
While we hope that TFC repeat at least the 2012 feat, a sold-out BMO Field would definitely help the boys in red to put their bodies on the line. That was the real driving force of last year’s massive success.