CCL Preview: TFC trying to build on performance vs. Pumas

TFC head coach Aron Winter

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TORONTO — Toronto FC’s 4-2 win on the road against the Columbus Crew — the club’s first ever victory against their Trillium Cup rivals — is in the books and the Reds now have to get set for a Wednesday night match against CONCACAF Champions League Group C opponents Pumas UNAM in Mexico City (8 pm ET, GOLTV Canada, TeleFutura).

But far from ignoring their Saturday night triumph, TFC are hoping to build on their historic performance.

“The first half is one of our best performances since TFC’s been around,” said midfielder Julian de Guzman, who scored the third goal against the Crew. “That first half was complete. Throughout the game, we showed a lot of composure.”

The Reds will need that composure against a Pumas side that have one point from their first two Group C games and will undoubtedly be looking to get a run going before it's too late. TFC have three points in the competition to stand above both Pumas and Panama's Tauro FC, while FC Dallas lead the pack with six points.

A win or a draw against struggling Pumas would strengthen Toronto’s hopes of advancing from the group stage, since they will play two of their three remaining CCL matches at home.

The match on Mexican soil, where no MLS team had ever won until Dallas beat Pumas in their CCL match, will test what appears to be a new mindset for TFC.

“The way we started the game [against Columbus] is exactly what we’re trying to bring to the team culture of TFC — that winning mentality,” de Guzman said. “You see the a lot more football being played with confidence and the first half was a great example of what we’re capable of doing.”

Pumas are coming off a 4-0 loss to Querétaro in Mexican league play. Toronto, meanwhile, have gone 5-2-3 since July 27, and technical director and head coach Aron Winter has seen improvement in his squad.

“Most of the games that we have lost, it’s not because the opponent was much stronger than us, but because we have given away the games,” he said.

Against the Crew, TFC took a 2-0 lead in the first half behind goals from Nick Soolsma and Ryan Johnson. Columbus put two past substitute goalkeeper Milos Kocic in the second half, but the Reds were able to keep pace and emerge victorious.

“Even after we were leading 2-0 and we got a goal against, we kept trying to play football and kept trying to get organization,” Winter said.

Added defender Richard Eckersley, “Hopefully, in future games, that will be a mindset where we score a goal and press and press and go for more goals. As well as keeping the back door shut at the same time.”