Toronto FC have passed one difficult test in LA. Now they face another in Seattle.
Three days after pulling off a stunning upset of the Galaxy in CONCACAF Champions League play, the Reds descend into CenturyLink Field to face the Sounders on Saturday (10 pm ET, MLS Live).
“Again, we’re going to go into the game just as we did in LA," Toronto FC midfielder Julian de Guzman told MLSsoccer.com by phone on Friday. "As underdogs.”
That role seems to suit the Reds. They played the part perfectly in upsetting the Galaxy 2-1 on Wednesday to become the first Canadian team to advance to the CCL semifinals. They’re hoping that momentum carries into a tough 2012 regular-season opener.
“We’ve got the win under our belts to make it to the next round, so the guys are feeling great,” de Guzman (above, left) said. “I think it’s a great way to go into the next important match with that feeling. But at the same time, we know that Seattle is a tough team to deal with and they’re playing in front of their home fans and they bring a great atmosphere as well.”
Seattle also played in a CCL quarterfinal on Wednesday, losing in Mexico 6-1 to Club Santos Laguna, Toronto’s next opponent in the tournament later this month.
But Saturday’s game at CenturyLink Field is another fresh start. It begins TFC’s sixth MLS season, and the Reds are feeling like this is finally the year they book their first MLS Cup Playoffs berth.
“We still have a lot more to offer and prove going into the season,” de Guzman said.
The Canadian international, who has been with the team since September of 2009, feels a difference under head coach and technical director Aron Winter.
“We won against all odds to get out of our [CCL] group and, at the same time, we’ve taken a step toward reaching the final by beating LA,” he said. “It just shows how a lot of things have turned around for this squad.”
The Sounders beat TFC twice last year, 3-0 in Seattle and 1-0 in Toronto, and de Guzman feels the challenges the Reds must face so early can be beneficial.
“It’s a good way to prepare ourselves for the season,” he said. “We’ve had tough competition against LA and we’ve got another tough game to start the season off against Seattle.
“It’s good to see that we’re sharp. The guys are fit and definitely prepared for a long and busy season. You couldn’t ask for a better start for the 2012 season.