Toronto FC's Concacaf Champions League dreams still alight despite deficit

TORONTO – With the first leg over, preparations for the second are already underway.

Hours removed from a 2-1 home loss to Chivas de Guadalajara at BMO Field on Tuesday night in the first leg of the Concacaf Champions League final, Toronto FC are already back at the training ground for a regeneration session with a busy few days ahead.

The second leg is set for next Wednesday (9:30 pm ET | TSN, UDN, go90.com) in Guadalajara, but first Toronto must face an away day at the Houston Dynamo on Saturday (3 pm ET | CTV — Full TV & streaming info).

Last weekend saw a skeleton side lose 2-0 away to the Colorado Rapids with the bulk of the squad in Toronto focused on Chivas. Asked if a similar approach would be taken this weekend, all Greg Vanney would say is: “We will prioritize the final.”

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A traveling roster will break away from the group on Friday for the match in Texas before rejoining the rest as TFC looks to overturn the first leg defeat.

Moments after the final whistle, the disappointment of defeat was already firmly behind them.

“We've got no time to worry about anything that didn't go our way tonight,” Michael Bradley said post-match. “The response has to be strong in every way.” 

“We're going to regroup, look at this game, understand how we can tweak a few things to give ourselves an even better chance to put things in our favor,” continued Bradley. “And be ready to play, attack, be aggressive, make chances, put out fires when we need to, and do it over and over again for 90 minutes.”

It could not be argued that Chivas outplayed Toronto on the night; they did make the most of their limited chances, where TFC did not.

“It's a positive sign that we're creating chances,” Drew Moor said. “We can go there and create chances. They have a lead now that they will want to protect and they won't want to give away any away goals. We need to continue to create, get balls into the box, get service to Jozy [Altidore] and Sebastian [Giovinco] and let them go to work.”

“If we raise our game 10-15 percent, create a couple more chances, put them on their heels, especially early in the second leg,” continued Moor. “We have every chance to go and win this thing.”

Chivas' unorthodox, extreme man-marking did seem to force Toronto out of their element for the opening phase of Tuesday's match. The early away goal did not help. 

But TFC persevered, playing their way into the match to find the aforementioned chances they desired. Chivas goalkeeper Miguel Jimenez twice denied Altidore from close range, Giovinco went close on several occasions, and Marky Delgado skied an effort after he was found in space by Giovinco on the end of a surging, sweeping move.

Toronto will look to apply those lessons learned in leg two.

“This is the game against them,” explained Bradley. “They're going to be aggressive, in a very man-to-man way. If you can move quickly, play forward, move on the other side then there's space. They get pulled, get dragged around. I like our chances still.”

Said Alex Bono: “We're ready for it. We know that we're going to go down there and get a victory.”

Despite progressing past two Mexican opponents already, Toronto is yet to win on the road against them. A 3-2 loss was enough to progress through the quarterfinals against Tigres UANL on away goals after a 4-4 aggregate tie. And a late penalty kick at Estadio Azteca led to a 1-1 draw against Club America in the semifinals.

Is there a better time to get that precious first win? 

“Absolutely not,” said Moor. “[Vanney] said it after the last game: 'We didn't come into this tournament to make it to the final'. We're going to do everything we can to make it a special night in Guadalajara next week.”