Kick Off: Expect a new-look Toronto vs. Santos tonight

Kick Off - Aron Winter

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What Toronto FC will show up tonight against Santos Laguna in a CONCACAF Champions League first leg semifinal (8 pm ET, Fox Soccer)?

The first Canadian team to advance to the CCL semis has shown two faces over the last several weeks. With Torsten Frings in the lineup they beat the LA Galaxy on the road in the CCL quarters. Without the German Designated Player, they succumbed to successive three-goal losses in MLS play.

Forward Ryan Johnson knows that many TFC fans may be fearing the worst: “We didn’t come this far to mess it up. I know the last two games were disappointing but we worked hard to get here and we’re not just going to bow out like that,” he said.

The most disappointing of those two MLS losses for Toronto FC was the 3-0 blanking at home to the San Jose Earthquakes last Saturday: “San Jose was a big wake-up for us,” said goalkeeper Milos Kocic. “I want to get out on the field and show that we are worth more than what we showed against San Jose.”

So how exactly do they plug the holes? Manager Aron Winter was reportedly at an MLSE board meeting yesterday, but his assistant Bob de Klerk provided the solution: "If you let the opponent turn and give them the time to turn and face our goal, that's a big issue. We will try to be very compact because when you play open and wide like Seattle did in Mexico, they got over-run. You have to be compact when you don't have the ball.”

Speaking of Seattle, de Klerk admitted that TFC sought out the Sounders’ expertise after the rave green fell to Santos Laguna 7-3 on aggregate in the quarterfinal stage: “We’ve been in contact with Seattle,” he said. “We asked how they played against [Santos] and what their experience was.”

Further sign that MLS teams have no problems supporting each other in the CCL, even the LA Galaxy, who were ousted by Toronto FC in the quarters, are rooting for the Reds: “Absolutely, we’re behind them,” says Galaxy veteran defender Todd Dunivant.

CCL may help American soccer fans take their minds off what happened in Olympic qualifying. There is still fallout from the USA’s elimination at the hands of El Salvador: “It's a shock to the US men's soccer team and the system,” says Houston Dynamo and USMNT defender Geoff Cameron.

Pretty interesting take from the LA Galaxy’s Mike Magee on the Olympic team’s debacle: “The main thing for soccer is definitely the World Cup. We want our young players to do better, and we want to go through [to the finals] at every level, but at the end of the day, it really doesn't matter in terms of the sport in our country.”

Another interesting viewpoint from The Denver Post’s Chuck Murphy who wonders whether US Soccer’s Nashville nightmare is the product of a “coddling system” in which “US player aren’t accustomed to street fights” like the one they had against El Salvador.

When they talk about a “street fight,” we’re not just pointing to the punch in the face that Terrence Boyd received during the match against El Salvador. Apparently, both Mikkel Diskerud and Freddy Adu were bitten by the Salvadorans and showed reporters the bite marks: “Part of the game, I guess,” Diskerud said.

Caleb Porter’s last postgame press conference in Olympic qualifying clearly didn’t sit well with this Goal.com reporter who accuses the U-23 manager of making “loser comments.”

The losers on Tuesday night in the final matches of Olympic qualifying Group B action did not advance to the semis in Kansas City, Kan. Honduras downed Trinidad and Tobago 2-0 to clinch a semifinal berth against El Salvador. Mexico fielded a reserve side and squeaked by Panama 1-0. Canada are up next for El Tri. (Watch the highlights here).

For Honduran U-23 boss Luis Fernando Suárez, who is also the manager of the Catrachos’ senior side, he says that meeting El Salvador in the decisive semifinal stage is “not an opponent I wanted to see.”

D.C. United captain Dwayne De Rosario is hoping Canada can find a way to get by Mexico in the other semifinal. He would hope to be one of three overage players selected for London: “I hope so. That would be a dream come true. We’re hoping for World Cup and Olympics,” he says. Question is: Would D.C. United release him when the club is not required to?

D.C. and the rest of the East are looking up at Sporting Kansas City. You think SKC are good? That’s going to be the case for a while if manager Peter Vermes completes his vision: "What we have now is a core of very good players and that can be around for a long time,” he tells USA Today.

Hoping for a chance to emulate Vermes is Columbus Crew legend Guillermo Barros Schelotto, who wants everyone to know something: “I would like to be a head coach in the United States.” (SPANISH)

There goes Philadelphia Union defender Chris Albright stoking the eternal debate again as to the best soccer city in the USA: “In my mind, this is the best soccer community in the country, hands down.” Heard that? Hands down.

Many MLS fans are likely not familiar with his name, but the Montreal Impact are expected to announce the retirement of one of the standard-bearers at the club.

MLS Defender of the Year Omar Gonzalez may be on the sidelines recovering from injuries, but he’s still keeping busy: coming up with his own signature T-shirt. Check it out here. You’ll never watch Gonzo during a national anthem the same way again. (PHOTO)

Going American is English Premier League club Aston Villa. The team held by NFL Cleveland Browns owner Randy Lerner announced a three-match summer tour of the USA during which they’ll play three MLS clubs.

No Premier League clubs in today’s UEFA Champions League quarterfinals. It’s AC Milan vs. Barcelona in one of the matches (2:30 pm ET, Fox Soccer and Fox Deportes), while Olympique Marseille host Bayern Munich in the other first leg quarterfinal (2:30 pm ET, Fox Soccer Plus and FSN).

In addition to Toronto FC vs. Santos Laguna later tonight, defending CONCACAF Champions League winners Monterrey host fellow Mexican side Pumas UNAM in the other semifinal (10 pm ET, Fox Soccer). Also, another Mexican team is involved in the Copa Libertadores as Chivas de Guadalajara travel to face Defensor Sporting of Uruguay (7 pm ET, Fox Deportes).

No joke. The next president of CONCACAF is coming from the Cayman Islands. With a majority of votes held by Caribbean countries, it was a no-brainer. Faced with this lopsided voting set-up, some in CONCACAF are calling for a rotation system for the presidency. (SPANISH)

Lastly, we leave you with this basketball NCAA Final Four declaration by LA Galaxy rookie midfielder Kenney Walker, who’s a former University of Louisville player: “There's so many more UK fans in Louisville than Louisville fans.”

Walker’s not done yet talking about his school: “I'm a big Ohio State fan, being from [suburban] Cleveland,” he told ESPNLosAngeles.com. “Hopefully, Louisville and Ohio State make the final. But if they do, then I've got to go with Ohio State over my alma mater. Hate to say it.”

MLSsoccer.com Must-Reads:

Instant Replay: MLSsoccer.com reviews the controversial plays from Week 3

Plenty of US Under-23 discussion on the latest edition of ExtraTime Radio

MLSsoccer.com’s Team of the Week for Week 3: Last shall be first


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