When Chivas de Guadalajara welcome them to Estadio Akron (9:30 pm ET; TSN in Canada | UniMás, UDN, go90.com in US), the same smothering style that confronted them at BMO Field last Tuesday will be on display. But now, TFC know what that looks like, what it feels like.
“They play such a unique style that the game never looks like what you think [it's] going to,” said coach Greg Vanney on Thursday. “There are times when the middle of the field is wide open, that never happens. Everybody wants to protect the middle, [Chivas] don't.”
It's not just Toronto's attackers that are man-marked.
“Seventy-five to 80 percent of their players are shadowing somebody around the field,” explained Vanney. “They're very specific: left back taking our left midfielder, right winger taking our left back; just following them around.”
To combat that menace, “a lot of things have to come off,” according to Vanney.
“Timing, precision, guys have to play at maximum speed to lose a mark and get to a good spot to get the ball,” he noted. “That's what makes it challenging. It takes a lot of physical work to create the separation.
“At the same time, marking people all over the field has its faults; it's not a perfect system,” added Vanney. “It's up to us to create time edges to make things happen, whether that be individually getting unmarked or doing things collectively to get guys freed up. Those are the things we have to do.”
Stressed Vanney: “I do believe going down there we can beat them, 100 percent. It's about executing.”
As this is TFC’s third trip to Mexico during the tournament, not to mention their preseason visit, all the off-field details are relatively routine by now.
Jozy Altidore fights off illness in Leg 1 | USA Today Sports Images
But as any traveler knows, these journeys can be difficult on the stomach, whether the travel itself, changing conditions, or food and drink. Jozy Altidore's struggles were plain to see in the first leg.
“[Everyone is] better, or on the right side of it,” said Vanney. “I don't know if it was related to water or a bug that was going around.”
TFC have foreseen such possibilities and sought to intervene. Their head chef, Elaine Flamenco, has traveled with the side once more, to monitor consumption and cooking methods.
With Guadalajara forecast to be warmer than the last two stops, hydration is key. While comfort can be found in all that is familiar, so too is it to be had in something new: a refreshing clarity.
“You get to this last game, the yellow cards are gone, everybody can just play, they don't have to worry about being suspended. That's nice,” pointed out Vanney. “You know what possible results you need to get, you know how aggressive you should be.”