SANTOS LAGUNA vs. TORONTO FC
ESTADIO CORONA, Torreón, Mexico
April 4, 2012 (CCL semifinal second leg)
8 pm ET (Sportsnet One, Fox Soccer, TeleFutura)
Toronto FC head coach Aron Winter has been asked multiple times in two countries in as many days, what kind of a lineup he will select Wednesday night against Club Santos Laguna.
WATCH: Winter on what it will take
Probably right up until an hour before kickoff — that's when lineups are due to match officials — the TFC coach will keep that knowledge to himself. While he won't reveal very much about his game plan, it is clear that the Reds will have to make some adjustments without the services of forward Danny Koevermans, who will miss this must-triumph contest due to suspension. A victory or a 2-2 draw (or greater) within 90 minutes will allow TFC to book a passage to the Champions League finals, entering a new chapter in Toronto and Canadian club soccer history.
Koevermans won't be the only highly rated attacker missing Wednesday's match for disciplinary reasons. Santos Laguna will be without Darwin Quintero, the Colombian striker who has a temper that matches his impressive strike rate (four goals in eight CCL games). Quintero picked up a straight red card for a headbutt on Toronto's Ashtone Morgan at the end of stoppage time at BMO Field when the sides drew 1-1 in the opening fixture last week.
After arriving in Torreón, Toronto-born Morgan didn't seem concerned that he would be singled out for special treatment in Wednesday's match by the locals.
Ready for Anything
Toronto have shown an ability to rise up against strong opposition in the Champions League. In that vein, one of the players that has risen to the occasion is Ryan Johnson.
The Jamaican international striker scored in both legs against LA Galaxy in the quarterfinals. Only a timely right hand from Santos captain and goalkeeper Oswaldo Sánchez last week kept Johnson from making it three on the trot. He will look to return to the score sheet when Toronto need him most on Wednesday.
WATCH: Kocic not mincing words
With Joao Plata, Luis Silva, Nick Soolsma, Reggie Lambe and set-piece specialist Miguel Aceval all available to play, the Reds will have a balanced attack that should threaten the Mexicans as it did in the first leg. Though Johnson warned his teammates to be prepared for anything that could potentially knock them off their game.
Santos Laguna have never been to the final of an international cup competition and are eager to correct that on Wednesday. Team captain Sánchez told the local media this week “we are one step from the final. Nothing will be easy. We must take [Toronto] very seriously, and enforce the local conditions in Torreón.”
Defender Carlos Adrian Morales may be called into action on Wednesday after Mares was ejected from the first leg and will serve a suspension. The speedy left sided player says he respects Toronto as a “tough opponent” but the match should end in the Mexicans’ favor as they plan to put pressure on the Reds early to get a quick goal. A victory or a 0-0 draw would put Santos through to the CCL finals.
The Green and White should have the services of Herculez Gomez back after he left the first leg early. Also expected to feature in this match are defender Felipe Baloy and midfielder Juan Pablo Rodríguez. Baloy is a Panamanian international of some renown who was held out of the first leg, while Rodríguez is an influential central midfielder that served a suspension in the opening fixture. Both are thought to be the solution to Toronto's physical play.
An officiating crew from Honduras led by a very experienced CONCACAF referee José Pineda will take charge at Estadio Corona on Wednesday.
Pineda will be helped by assistants Juan Rodas and Oscar Velásquez. The fourth official is Armando Castro.