CCL: De Guzman looks to bounce back against Santos

TORONTO – When Toronto FC lost Torsten Frings to injury in the season-opener at Seattle, manager Aron Winter handed Julian de Guzman the armband to lead the team in the absence of its captain.

But with a golden opportunity to step up, de Guzman and TFC were thrashed in their first game without Frings in a 3-0 loss to San Jose last weekend. The Canadian international struggled in the German’s absence, leaving very little impact in the match, if at all, as the team often looked disorganized in front and behind him.

And surprisingly, even though de Guzman (above left) admits he underperformed, he says the experience was a good one as he and his team must rally quickly heading into their CONCACAF Champions League semifinal Wednesday against Santos Laguna of Mexico (8 pm ET, Fox Soccer, TeleFutura, LIVE CHAT on MLSsoccer.com).

“It’s very important for us to recover from this as soon as possible and bounce back and get ourselves ready for the Wednesday game,” de Guzman said after the Earthquakes loss. “It’s another important game ahead of us and we’re in a tough situation, but the unity of this team has proven itself in the past.”

De Guzman admits that his role in front of the defense last Saturday was tough to re-adjust to, especially in Frings’ absence, and the result prevented Toronto from playing “our football that we usually play.”

It’s been a rough few weeks for TFC after their stunning scalp of the LA Galaxy in the CCL quarterfinals, losing their first two league games by a combined 6-1 score line. And it won’t get any easier as mighty Santos Laguna visit BMO Field.

Still, de Guzman thinks the up-and-down experiences he and the team have had have steeled them for a difficult opponent, and he’s ready to lead his troops against the high-flying Mexican side.

“I think every team goes through moments like this,” he said. “The best teams experience tough losses and tough situations, and are teams that are able to hold each other up and react from this. To keep the guys’ hopes up and heads up is very important from a moment like this.”