CARSON, Calif. – Toronto FC scored two early goals on the LA Galaxy in last week’s CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal first leg in Rogers Centre, forcing LA to play from behind. And while the Galaxy eventually leveled terms, taking home a 2-2 draw, TFC showed they were up for the challenge.
In Wednesday night’s second leg (10 pm ET; Fox Soccer) the match will be played under far different conditions – on grass, at The Home Depot Center – and that may favor the Galaxy.
“Obviously, the field is different," LA defender Todd Dunivant told reporters this week. "It’s a little bit of a bigger field and it’s grass, which I think both teams would prefer. It will be different, but at the end of the day, it’s still played between the lines and emotions have to be high no matter what. And we’re certainly going to be up for the game.”
What won’t change, though, are Toronto FC’s strengths. Danny Koevermans and Torsten Frings, each of whom joined MLS last summer, were key figures in the first leg draw, as was rookie Luis Silva. With the trio leading the way, the Galaxy will have different areas of concern on both ends of the field.
“Koevermans is a real good target player, does a real good job,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. “Sometimes he’s up there on his own and he does a real good job fighting and giving defenders a hard time. Silva scored a real nice goal and that was an excellent debut for him last week.”
Toronto could have advantages beyond simple personnel matchups. Namely, they are the more rested team. The Reds did not play during First Kick weekend while the Galaxy lost their league opener 3-1 to Real Salt Lake.
“It could be for us an advantage,” TFC head coach Aron Winter told reporters last Friday. “It’s always nice when you have some days rest to recover well and prepare yourself better for the next game instead of playing this weekend.”
They’ll also get midfielder Julian de Guzman and forward Nick Soolsma back. The duo were suspended for the first leg from yellow card accumulation, and their return will give Toronto an experienced holding midfielder in de Guzman and an option on the attack Soolsma.
“We have more choices,” Winter added.
For the Galaxy, that means more challenges. And they already face quite a few, particularly thanks to Frings’ ability to pop up anywhere in the defense or midfield.
“He’s a really clever player,” LA captain Landon Donovan said of the former German international. “He’s an excellent passer and he’s a good leader. I heard him all night talking to their guys, directing them, leading them. He makes it difficult because when you have someone who is really sort of a holding midfielder, but when he drops back and plays in that spot it’s difficult because he can put the ball wherever he wants.”
However they line up, though, it seems like a fairly even matchup – the teams have played five consecutive draws, including last Wednesday’s game. A 0-0 or 1-1 draw would see LA through to the semifinals to face the winner of Seattle vs. Santos Laguna, while 3-3 or more would see Toronto into the semis.