Toronto FC is gearing up for what might be the stiffest competition they have faced in the last year and that’s no slight on the MLS. The Liga MX sides are just a different beast and continue to run the CONCACAF Champions League. TFC is getting set to take on Tigres, the Liga MX winners last year and current 10th place team in the Liga MX standings. To say TFC are the heavy underdogs is an understatement.
With the first leg taking place at BMO Field, where it might be around -1 to -2 degrees Celsius, it could be an opportunity for TFC to take advantage of that. While many people aren’t giving the Reds much hope the team feels like they have a chance to do something here.
Whether or not the Reds can grab the win at home on Wednesday will depend on how they approach the game. Both teams don’t know much about each other, so the first 15 minutes or so of the game both teams will be feeling each other out. It’ll be up to Greg Vanney and the coaches to come up with a game plan that puts Toronto on the path to victory.
So, here are three things that you should be watching for from the Reds
You can’t always be aggressive every game and especially against a side that has Enner Valencia, Eduardo Vargas and André-Pierre Gignac on their roster because they’ll burn you. So, having patience and frustrating the opponent will be a huge factor if Toronto can get something done in the first game.
While they want to be patient, they can’t sit back and invite pressure on themselves because that’s a recipe for disaster. Instead they should put a little pressure on the defence and try and force them into making mistakes. Let the game come to them, because if they play too aggressively they’re going to get burned.
They say the best defence is offence and Toronto can exploit that by counter-attacking the Mexican side when Toronto does get on the ball. They can use their skill and smarts to figure out a way to break down the Tigres defence, then TFC can get a result tonight. Costa Rican side Herediano was able to bag three goals against Tigres, so TFC will be looking to have some of that luck go their way.
Being too predictable
Over the last few years Toronto has become a little too predictable at times and therefore given teams an easy way out. In order to be successful in the Champions League format, Toronto will have to change things up to throw these teams off who have never seen them play before.
While much of the offence for Toronto runs through either Jozy Altidore or Sebastian Giovinco, TFC can’t force play through tonight as that’s likely to not work against a solid side like Tigres. TFC will have to use their wingbacks and spread the ball out wide to open up the defence. That may give Giovinco or Altidore a little more space to operate in front of goal.
The wing play of Auro and Justin Morrow will be counted on a little more this game as they’ll be tasked with keeping the ball moving on the flanks and getting up into the play when needed once TFC go on the counter.
Emphasis on Bradley
By now we all know what a workhorse Michael Bradley is and what a defensive asset he is to TFC. If the reds stand any chance of keeping this game close and leaving Toronto with maybe a win, they’ll need Bradley to be at his defensive best.
Bradley will be tasked with trying to shut down one or two of Enner Valencia, Eduardo Vargas or Andre-Pierre Gignac. Valencia already has two goals in the competition after scoring twice in Tigres’ round of 16 matchup. Since 2015 Gignac has been a scoring machine, scoring 72 times in 106 games for about 1.4 goals per game. If Bradley can help keep them at bay then TFC has a serious shot of getting out of Toronto with a win or a draw.