TORREÓN, Mexico – There aren't many people backing Toronto FC to win against Santos Laguna on Wednesday night (8 pm ET, Fox Soccer/FSN, LIVE CHAT on MLSsoccer.com), but TFC coach Aron Winter is adamant a major shock is on the cards.
“We are more than confident,” he told MLSsoccer.com Tuesday night in the squad's hotel here. “The trust and faith in the whole team is there. We have prepared well for the game.”
The Reds go into the game on level terms after last week's 1-1 tie at BMO Field, but the Santos' away goal is important. So are the images from the 6-1 second-leg thrashing perpetrated by los Guerreros on the Seattle Sounders to win the quarterfinal series, 7-3 on aggregate, after the MLS side took a 2-1 lead down south.
WATCH: Winter talks what it'll take
One of the striking features of Santos' play in that second leg against Seattle was how the Mexicans attacked in waves from the outset and stormed into a 2-0 lead within 10 minutes. Winter takes a philosophical view on how TFC will combat that likely early surge from Santos, pointing out that a game lasts for 90 minutes and that patience and playing as a team will be key.
“If you're playing against Santos, one of the best teams in Mexico, of course, it's normal that you are going to be the underdog,” he admitted. “But I see it differently because in the first game, we played very well against them, and I think tomorrow we can do the same. We know what we have to do. We have to win if we want to go further.”
Santos Laguna will be without Colombian Darwin Quintero and left back Omar Mares through suspension, but they are expected to start Panamanian centerback Filipe Baloy, who was left out of the first leg, and they will have creative midfielder Juan Pablo Rodríguez back from suspension.
Toronto received news on Monday that Chilean centerback Miguel Aceval will be fit, but they will still be without injured defender Torsten Frings and suspended striker Danny Koevermans. The latter's absence has raised debate for Toronto fans about who will take his place and how it will affect the team's style.
Winter has previously mentioned Ryan Johnson and Luis Silva as possibles, but less than 24 hours before kick off, he wasn't letting on about his lineup plans.
“You're going to see [on Wednesday],” he said.
Tom Marshall covers Americans playing in Latin America for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.