FRISCO, Texas – It's pretty simple math on Tuesday night as FC Dallas host Toronto FC in an all-MLS matchup in Matchday 6 of Group C play in the CONCACAF Champions League (8 pm ET, Fox Soccer): Whoever wins will advance to the quarterfinals.
For TFC, a win provides not only a positive ending to another disappointing season, but also tangible momentum for next season. FC Dallas, meanwhile, are on a roll in MLS, winning two in a row to rubber-stamp their presence in the postseason.
A trip to Pizza Hut Park for the CCL Group C clash would have seemed a lot more daunting in the early stages of the season for Toronto, but after recent good form leading scorer Danny Koevermans is looking forward to the game.
“It can be the first time TFC makes it to the quarterfinals of the Champions League,” said Koevermans, who rested in Saturday’s 1-1 league draw in Philadelphia to be ready for Tuesday. "It's a big one."
Added Toronto forward Ryan Johnson, “This is something that I would love to do for Toronto as a city. I feel this club, they really deserve to be happy about something. If we go on to the next stage, it’s going to be huge. I think we can do it.”
Both players joined Toronto during a midseason overhaul that has shown results in the past couple of months and stirred optimism, despite missing the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season.
Playoff-bound FC Dallas have defeated TFC three times, twice in league and play and once during the CCL group stage. But MVP candidate Brek Shea believes FCD will face a pumped-up Toronto outfit this time out.
“I think they are going to put everything they have into it,” Shea told MLSsoccer.com on Monday. “They’re going to come out strong and we’re just going to have to take that and keep playing our game and doing our stuff.”
Dallas defender George John added that TFC must be given ultimate respect, with a place in the knockout stages of the CCL on the line.
“You never want to underestimate a team,” John told MLSsoccer.com. “So we are going to go in there with our best squad and do our best.”
Johnson believes that despite their different fates in the league standings this season, they’re not too far apart in terms of play.
“When it comes to how the games have ended, it’s just been the smallest details,” the Jamaican international said. “I don’t think there’s much difference between us and them. They have a lot of quality, we have a lot of quality. It’s all about who shows the best on that day.”
TFC goalkeeper Milos Kocic has played all seven of Toronto’s CCL matches and also played in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with the Union. He said results from earlier in the season are not relevant in judging the team now.
“New York beat us 5-0 and we played them 1-1 at home.” Kocic said. “Philly beat us 6-2 we played them 1-1 away. We have a pretty good team and we just have to keep at the same level on Tuesday’s game.”
Dallas have also seen dips in form over the course of the season, perhaps due to their extreme amount of travel. Head coach Schellas Hyndman, however, is focused on preparing his side to give their best effort.
“FC Dallas has always shown up to try to play and win every game,” Hyndman told MLSsoccer.com on Monday. “We focus on every game that we play, this game coming up tomorrow night against Toronto for CONCACAF is the most important game on our schedule.”
Toronto head coach Aron Winter is taking the game just as seriously, as he rested players over the weekend with Tuesday’s showdown in Texas in mind. Midfielders Julian de Guzman and Terry Dunfield rejoined the team in Dallas, after not making the trip to Philadelphia following two games for the Canadian national team.
Former FC Dallas forward Peri Marosevic, meanwhile, did not play on Saturday while striker Joao Plata and midfielder Torsten Frings were substituted in the second half.
Dallas will be without forward Fabián Castillo and defender Jair Benítez, who picked up red cards in the 5-3 loss to Tauro in Panama City on Sept. 28, a result that set up Tuesday’s showdown.