CCL: Banged-up Toronto acknowledge tough task ahead

Paul Mariner knows the odds are stacked against Toronto FC to advance in the CONCACAF Champions League when they play Santos Laguna in Mexico next month in a decisive match.

But the 3-0 victory over CD Águila on Tuesday in El Salvador at least kept the Reds alive in the group stage for another game. And that means something to Toronto FC’s head coach.

“Yeah, of course it does,” Mariner told after Tuesday’s game. “We had to win tonight to give ourselves a chance. In football, you don’t know what can happen. We obviously have a very weakened team, we’ve got injuries all over the place. But we’ll go down there in a great atmosphere and we’ll give it our best.”

The Reds lost 3-1 to Santos on Aug. 28 at BMO Field and with head-to-head record between serving as the tie breaker, they must win the rematch in Torreón on Oct. 24 by more than two goals to advance from the three-team group.

Tuesday’s win was the first for Toronto in all competitions since Aug. 1 when they beat Águila 5-1 at BMO Field.

The injury list to which Mariner referred included striker Eric Hassli’s sprained ankle that kept him from traveling to Toronto's 4-2 loss in LA and to El Salvador.

Defender Richard Eckersley took a blow to the head early in last Saturday’s loss to the Galaxy and did not play the second half. He missed the game in El Salvador as a precaution.

Fellow defender Darren O’Dea also did not play in El Salvador because of hamstring and adductor tightness.

“With the amount of football he’s played and the amount of travel he’s had with the [Republic of Ireland] team and us, it just caught up with him a little,” Mariner said.  “It was a bit of a calculated risk that we thought we could rest him and hope to get him ready for Saturday in New York [for the game against the Red Bulls].”

Toronto did avoid another debilitating injury when rookie midfielder Luis Silva took a tackle from behind in the opening minute of the second half on Tuesday, stayed in briefly, and then was taken out of the game, a move Mariner confirmed was precautionary.

“It was a poor challenge,” Mariner said. “He got kicked right in the calf and what we didn’t want to happen was to have it tying up. We just thought it was best to take him off.”

Stay connected: Get access to breaking news, videos, and analysis from North America's best soccer reporters via "This Week in MLS" newsletter or using our FREE mobile app.