TORONTO – Any hint of the sweet taste of victory that Toronto FC felt after their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal win over the LA Galaxy has turned sour after back-to-back losses to open the Reds' 2012 MLS campaign.
The latest setback this past Saturday afternoon – a 3-0 defeat at the hands of the San Jose Earthquakes, at home no less – has the team quickly refocusing back to CCL action. TFC will host Santos Laguna, currently tied for first in Mexico’s first division on Wednesday evening in the first leg of the semifinals (8 pm ET, Fox Soccer, LIVE CHAT at MLSsoccer.com).
“Very good team, I think,” said TFC assistant coach Bob de Klerk, a massive understatement if there ever were one. “If you watch our game against Pumas in Mexico [last September in CCL group-stage play], we had a difficult time over there, very difficult match. And they’re in the league in Mexico and higher than Pumas. That says enough.”
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Toronto are already somewhat familiar with Mexican teams having played club from south of the border previously in the competition – Cruz Azul in 2010 and Pumas UNAM last fall. TFC have scouted Santos extensively, and when the team was in Seattle for its season opener, the technical staff had discussions with their Sounders FC counterparts to compare notes.
Santos easily dispatched the Sounders in the CCL quarterfinals by a 7-3 aggregate, but the MLS club was forthcoming with their evaluations of the Mexican side. TFC director of player development Paul Mariner was thankful for the input.
“They were extremely kind and we were very appreciative,” he said of Seattle's inputs. “We obviously had a report from our head scout in the USA, and we also had reports from one of our consultants who worked for us down in Mexico.”
De Klerk said Aron Winter and the rest of the staff plan to learn from the Sounders’ mistakes by keeping the game simple and eliminating any extra space.
“We try to make it very compact, of course, because we play open and wide like Seattle did in Mexico, they overrule you then,” de Klerk said. "So you have to play compact when you don’t have the ball, and we know that. And we have to sharp on the second ball.”