TORONTO – There is still much work to be done.
Toronto FC's 3-1 win over Club America in the first leg of their semifinal in the Concacaf Champions League on Tuesday night at BMO Field earned the Reds an advantage. But with next week's second leg set for Mexico City's famed Estadio Azteca, a graveyard to many a visiting sides' hopes and dreams, it's far from a comfortable position.
“We understand that it is halfway done,” said TFC captain Michael Bradley. “The result puts us in good spot going to Mexico City next week, but there is still a lot left to do.”
Speaking before the match on Monday, coach Greg Vanney said his preferred outcome was a 1-0 or 2-0 win. Instead, Toronto scored three times but also allowed Club America that precious away goal that could be consequential in a two-legged tie.
“We can be happy with where we're at,” Vanney said after the match. “We know it will be a tough game down there. I'm disappointed in the goal we gave up, I don't think it was a great [one].
“They got the away goal,” Vanney added. “But the third goal was massive to help offset that a little bit.”
Hometown hero Ashtone Morgan scored that third after initiating a helping to initiate the sweeping attack in the 58th minute. From there, it was the Reds who looked the more likely side to hit the net again.
“We would have liked to have gotten a fourth; we had a couple of opportunities,” said Toronto defender Drew Moor. “We know what Azteca can be like, how Club America play there. It'll be a difficult task no matter what. To have a two-goal cushion is nice, but we know we still have a lot of work to do.”
Toronto expects Club America to throw everything they have into the second leg. Coach Miguel Herrera began the assault with his accusatory press conference. The mind games will continue over the ensuing week and come kickoff his side will be eager to overturn the first leg result.
“It's a big field, the altitude clearly comes into play. It'll be a different game than the one tonight. We understand that,” Bradley said. “Our ability to manage [the game], to be tactically good, to have a mentality that understand what nights like this are about, to play football, to put things on our terms in the right moment -- we're going to need everything.”
In anticipation, Toronto will be heading to Mexico on Thursday.
“We've been doing as much as we can here to start that process," Vanney said. "We learned a lot when we were down there this preseason. We're going to try to take advantage of that as much as we can.”
Toronto played without injured trio Victor Vazquez, Chris Mavinga, and Justin Morrow in the first leg, though Vanney said he expects the trio to be "right on the fringe" of being available for the second.
Regardless of who takes to the pitch, Toronto will be ready.
“It's going to be a challenging task,” said Morgan. “We have the advantage; we have to play smart when we go down there. I'm sure our coaches will have us well prepared.”