TORONTO – The final 10 minutes of the game – any game, really – has been a nightmare for Toronto FC this year.
They’ve managed to give up goals in many unimaginable ways across all competitions, but one game stands out: The CONCACAF Champions League match against Santos Laguna back in August.
The Reds gave up two late goals in that one, and subsequently lost 3-1. They’ll get a shot at redemption on Wednesday when they visit Santos Laguna in Torreón, Mexico, for the final group stage match (8 pm ET; Fox Soccer, Sportsnet World).
Because of the late collapse in the teams’ first meeting, Toronto need to win Wednesday by more than two goals. If they don’t, their CCL run is over.
“That was a huge blow giving away those two goals,” midfielder Terry Dunfield told MLSsoccer.com. “It’s too bad. We need to go down there and win by a couple of goals. But on the other hand it’s a magnificent stadium to go down there and play in. We’ll see what a couple of the young guys are made of.”
“We can’t go stupid,” head coach Paul Mariner told reporters Tuesday after training before the team departed. “We can’t just go all-out attack ... because you can see in a split-second they can open you up.”
Santos are undefeated in three games in Group A, and Toronto are three points behind with two wins in their three games. Santos have scored 12 goals and allowed one while Toronto have scored nine and allowed four.
Santos lost their league match 4-1 on Sunday, away to 10-man Toluca, but did not play their strongest team. They were held to draws in their previous two league games after winning two in a row.
Toronto, meanwhile, have not won in any competition since defeating CD Águila of El Salvador 3-0 on Sept. 25 in a CCL group match.
“If we’re honest, I think it will take a miracle for us to come back with something, but it’s for them to lose and we’ll be going down there without a lot of pressure on us,” Dunfield said.
Toronto will be without striker Eric Hassli, who will stay home after his wife gave birth to a son on Monday. That means Ryan Johnson and Luis Silva will be paired up front.
The backline has questions as well, as Darren O’Dea and Logan Emory will be missing because of injury.
“We’re representing Canada,” Mariner said. “I said that to the players this morning. It’s very important. We’ve just tweaked our system a little bit. They’ve got some very good players. Obviously it’s going to be difficult, but like I said to the guys this morning, 'It’s 11 blokes against 11 blokes, so let’s get after it.'”