Kick Off: Toronto feel "more than confident" of victory

Few people are giving Toronto FC much of a chance, that's for sure.

The Canadian champions take on Santos Laguna on Wednesday night in the second leg of their CONCACAF Champions League semifinal series (8 pm ET, Fox Soccer, Live Chat on MLSsoccer.com). Toronto did well to earn a 1-1 draw at home last week, but it’s almost a foregone conclusion that the powerful Mexican side will win as they did against Seattle in the quarterfinals.

But don’t tell that to Toronto manager Aron Winter. “We are more than confident,” he said on Tuesday night after arriving in Torreón.

The first leg was a fractious affair that included two red cards for Santos players and a scuffle after the final whistle. TFC goalkeeper Milos Kocic almost hopes for a similar type of match. “It’s why you have fights in hockey,” Kocic said. “To bring the energy level up. If [tonight] ends with a fight, then that’s OK.”

Aside from the energy, Kocic also seems to have the winning strategy figured out. “I think we should play the way Columbus played us,” he said.

So do the Reds have a chance? Veteran MLS writer Ives Galarcep’s preview breakdown goes back and forth more than once on the answer to that question.

Do you believe in omens? Or karma? Just a few hours before the match in Torreón, TFC received some bad news about injured goalkeeper Stefan Frei. Originally expected to miss eight to 10 weeks with a broken fibula, he has undergone ankle surgery that will see him miss four to six months.

Real Salt Lake have dealt with their fair share of injuries so far this year, but they have a few more healthy bodies available for Wednesday night’s home match against Montreal (9 pm ET, MLS LIVE). Despite the Impact’s winless start, RSL are wary of the visitors, and midfielder Will Johnson likens them to another struggling side that came to Rio Tinto and pulled off an upset.

The Impact are finishing up a three-game road trip in Salt Lake, and are expected to make a few changes to the lineup that lost to New York. Montreal have faced some criticism for committing 16.75 fouls per game, four times the league average, but coach Jesse Marsch is defiant. “I wouldn't call a lack of discipline. I would say it's commitment to being hard to play against … we're certainly not apologizing for fouls.”

Discipline was front and center on Tuesday as the MLS Disciplinary Committee handed out suspensions to three players for incidents that took place over the weekend.

There was also bad news for FC Dallas playmaker David Ferreira, who underwent surgery to repair the fracture in his right foot that has kept him out of action for the past month.

Staying in Dallas, where FCD will host the New England Revolution on Thursday night (8:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE), the tornados that ripped through the Dallas area forced the Revs to take evasive action.

On a lighter side, there was no way for Revolution midfielder Shalrie Joseph to evade his microphone-wielding teammate.

The Revs, who beat LA on Saturday, jumped five spots in the latest edition of MLSsoccer.com’s Power Rankings. But they weren’t the biggest movers.

The Galaxy, meanwhile, fell sharply in the Power Rankings. For striker Chad Barrett, their struggles so far this year come down to the players’ mentality. “Right now it seems we've got a little bit of lack of communication, lack of a sense of pride. … We just don't have that same mentality, that same charisma we had last year.”

No mentality issues for Seattle’s Marc Burch. The defender, who was let go by D.C. United in the offseason, lashed out at his former club ahead of the Sounders visit to the nation’s capital on Saturday. "They had the opportunity to keep me and they didn't. It's time to go back and prove that I don't believe their left back is better than I am. If that's what they think, then that's what they think.”

Seattle coach Sigi Schmid might have a selection decision in D.C., with Eddie Johnson’s return to fitness. Could Johnson start over David Estrada, who has four goals this year?

Vancouver, as team, don’t even have four goals yet this season. But striker Eric Hassli is  back training after missing last weekend’s trip to Philly. And he’s planning to turn up the heat this weekend against San Jose. "You're going to see 10 or 20 shots on the goal and maybe two or three goals."

Meanwhile, this columnist in Vancouver finds beauty in the Whitecaps defense, which has yet to concede a goal: “There is a kind of beauty to what the team is currently achieving.”

What can be achieved through possession? It might be 9/10s of the law, but analytics writer Devin Pleuler doesn’t think it holds water in soccer.

Can Jimmy Conrad hold his own against UFC president Dana White? White’s comments about the beautiful game inspired the former US international to challenge him to a match. Find out if he accepted.

Fans around the world have had to accept that Barcelona will reach the semifinals of the UEFA Champions League each year. They thumped AC Milan, 3-1, on Tuesday to earn a final four spot for the fifth year in a row. In the other quarterfinal series, Bayern finished off Marseille, 4-0 on aggregate.

Today, Chelsea put their 1-0 aggregate lead on the line at home to Benfica (2:45 pm ET, Fox Soccer), and Real Madrid host Cypriot Cinderella side Apoel (2:45 pm ET, . With a  3-0 lead already, Cristiano Ronaldo & Co. will most likely crush those glass slippers like grapes in a wine barrel.

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Zakuani healthy, happy after reserve stint vs. Gonzaga


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