New head coach Chris Armas said his squad “passed the test” in their first competitive fixture, but know their Liga MX foe will not bow down without a fight in a second leg Wednesday (6 pm ET | FS1, TUDN) at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
The match was originally scheduled for Osceola Heritage Park in Kissimmee, Fla., Toronto’s home base due to Canadian travel restrictions during the global pandemic, but Concacaf objected.
“Coming out of that match there’s more belief in what we’re doing — again the Columbus preseason match I know gave us the confidence there — and there’s also, those types of games push guys physically and mentally to places where maybe you don’t know that you can go,” Armas said in a virtual press conference Tuesday. “To see heart rates and distance covered at that altitude and then guys are able to push themselves way outside their comfort zone gives each player who’s out there an internal confidence they can push hard and suffer and do that together.”
While there’s more belief and confidence in the system, Armas said there’s still major injury concerns heading into the second leg. While Alejandro Pozuelo isn’t quite ready to return, Armas called Jozy Altidore, who had an MRI Monday, and Jonathan Osorio “day to day.”
“The question is do we use them for this match with what’s at stake,” he said. “I think we’re going to have some good options. I will tell you Alejandro doesn’t look like he’ll be ready, but a bunch of other guys are day to day and will be considered.”
Armas said regardless of who steps on the field for the second leg, the mentality of being aggressive — on and off the ball — continues. He scoffed at the notion Toronto FC were lucky to come away with a result courtesy of a Leon own goal.
“We have a mindset of forcing mistakes. We did that and i think we’re comfortable in this climate already and we will approach the match in a way where we are aggressive when we have the ball and when we don’t,” he said. “We’re getting clearer each day on what that looks like and how to use that strategically in different moments.”
Armas also pushed aside any potential excuses —specifically injuries and not playing the match at BMO Field to maximize on home field advantage — heading into the second leg.
“No excuses here,” Armas said. “We are ready and we have enough, we believe we are stepping on the field throwing everything at Leon with a plan, with a togetherness and we’re going after the victory.”