Toluca celebrate goal

CONCACAF Champions League: Toluca expect physical challenge from San Jose Earthquakes

If Mexican and American clubs play to their stereotypes, head-to-head games feature ground-oriented possession on one side and direct, physical play on the other.

Based on reports from the Toluca website, head coach José Cardozo is a believer, citing possession as the key for his club while worrying about the size of the San Jose Earthquakes ahead of Tuesday evening’s CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal first leg (10 pm ET, FOX Sports 2, Univision Deportes).

“I’m convinced that if we have the ball, possession, a lot of movement and attack with a lot of people, that will win us the match,” Cardozo told Toluca’s website.

Cardozo categorized the Earthquakes as having “very tall, physically strong players” and added the Northern California team defends in numbers and counterattacks quickly. The former Paraguay international added he is expecting a close game and stated Toluca will take the game to San Jose despite playing the first leg away. He also described the game as being “key to the aspirations we have [this season].”

Defender Óscar Rojas, meanwhile, said the pitch at the Buck Shaw Stadium is in good condition and admitted that, as of Monday, Toluca’s players had not studied their MLS opposition in great detail.

“We don’t know much about the rival, but like all American teams, we expect a strong team, a very competitive game, and it’ll be a difficult opponent,” said Rojas, also on Toluca’s website.

There remain some doubts about Toluca’s starting lineup, with Cardozo loosely hinting at “putting together a team” for the Earthquakes game, when his strongest team pretty much picks itself. Paraguayan duo Edgar Benítez and Pablo Velázquez were on the bench last Friday against Puebla when they have been inked-in starters this season in Toluca’s march to second place in Liga MX.

Velazquez’s replacement, Raúl Nava – the current leader in the CCL scoring chart with six goals – scored from the penalty spot in the Diablos Rojos’ 3-0 win against La Franja and seems confident he will be seeing more minutes in the continental competition’s knockout rounds. 

“I’m anxious to score goals to be the Champions League scoring champion,” said Nava in quotes published in Excelsior.