TORONTO – Toronto FC’s most important game of the year could also be their toughest task yet.
The Reds will be missing three key players when they take the field in the CONCACAF Champions League against Pumas UNAM on Tuesday (8 pm ET, Fox Soccer), a fact that could hinder the club’s chances at advancing out of the group stage.
Midfielders Torsten Frings and Terry Dunfield and defender Mikael Yourassowsky are all suspended for the match due to yellow-card accumulation in the tournament, and TFC are in dire need of points with just two games left in the group stage.
“If one player is suspended, OK, but now you’ve got three players and that’s too much,” head coach and technical director Aron Winter said Monday at BMO Field.
Suspensions or not, the Reds face a Pumas team that thrashed them 4-0 earlier in the tournament in Mexico and currently lead Group C with seven points through four games. TFC head into the match third in the group with six points, coming off a win over Panamanian side Tauro FC last week.
“Everybody knows the importance of the game,” Winter said. “And everybody knows that we have to get a good result and we have to prepare ourselves very well.”
Given the suspensions, Winter said that he’ll likely give a number of players a start who might not normally see time in MLS regular-season play. The club is also without Joao Plata (hamstring) and Eric Avila, who is cup-tied with FC Dallas and cannot play in the tournament.
“It’s going to be a difficult task, especially with players missing,” defender Richard Eckersley said. “We’re at home, we’ve got to dominate them, we’ve got to show them that it is our ground.”
Said defender Any Iro: “Obviously any time you lose 4-0 to a team you want some payback of some sort. I think we’re going to play it slightly different than how we did down there.”
TFC finish their Group C schedule at Dallas on Oct. 18.
“I think if we can get a good result it puts us in really a strong position going into Dallas,” Iro said. “I think the main thing is, we want to go into that last game and know what we have to do, and not rely on other results.”