TORONTO – In a season full of must-win games, Toronto FC have almost always found a way to come up short. They’ll get their latest – and possibly last – chance to make good on 2012’s early promise on Tuesday night in El Salvador against CD Águila (10 pm ET; Sportsnet One in Canada, Fox Soccer in US).
Anything less than the full three points means an end to TFC’s CONCACAF Champions League campaign.
“It’s pretty plain to see what we have to do,” head coach Paul Mariner said. “It’s a tall order.”
A victory at Estadio Cuscatlán in San Miguel would only give TFC a reprieve in their three-team group. They would still have to beat Santos Laguna by more than two goals when the teams meet Oct. 24 in Torreón, Mexico, to advance.
Santos have won all three group matches, including a 3-1 victory at Toronto on Aug. 28. Winless Águila have been eliminated, having lost twice to Santos and ending up on the wrong end of a 5-1 scoreline at BMO Field in the group’s first matchday.
“I thought we played very well, we kept the ball,” defender Jeremy Hall said of the win. “It’s going to be a harder game going down into El Salvador with the conditions of the pitch, the referees, the hostile environment. I hope we can come out with the same intensity as we did at home, and get back in the win column.”
Forward Quincy Amarikwa played for the Colorado Rapids in El Salvador last year, scoring a goal in a 3-1 CCL win over Isidro Metapán. He expects both a raucous atmosphere and an ample helping of gamesmanship.
“It’s difficult to play there so it’s kind of a test of character and a test of your ability to travel and be in a new place and still come out and perform,” Amarikwa said. “Our hotel was quite a distance from the field, so we didn’t get too much of the fireworks and all that kind of stuff going, but it wasn’t particularly great once we were at the stadium itself. When you do win after overcoming obstacles, it makes it that much better.”
In Toronto’s case, a win under any circumstances would be that much better. They 5-1 win over Águila on Aug. 1 was their last win in any competition.
“It’s a very arduous travel schedule for us coming off a Saturday game,” Mariner said, referring to the short turnaround after coming off a 4-2 loss at the LA Galaxy on Saturday. “And it’s a different environment in El Salvador. They’ll want to put things right because we really did take it to them in the previous game at home. We’re expecting a difficult game but I think we’ll be well equipped to cope.”
Toronto FC are without forward Eric Hassli who has an ankle injury. Defender Richard Eckersley, who left the game against the Galaxy after the first half after taking a knock on the head, reported that he felt fine on Sunday.