TORONTO – Already facing must-win matches in each of their remaining seven MLS regular season matches, the first-ever Campeones Cup on Wednesday night against Tigres UANL adds yet another important game to Toronto FC's 2018 schedule (8:15 pm ET on ESPN2 and Univision in USA; TSN and TVAS in Canada).
A busy week will give head coach Greg Vanney plenty to ponder with three matches in seven days: a home match on Saturday night against the LA Galaxy (7:30 pm ET | TSN - full TV & streaming info), Wednesday's cup showdown between the MLS and Liga MX champions and a trip to take on the New York Red Bulls the following Saturday (5 pm ET | TSN - full TV & streaming info).
“We'll see where we're at coming out of Saturday [vs. LA Galaxy] and gauge our approach [to Wednesday],” explained Vanney. “We're not conceding anything, but we've got to be careful knowing that we still have games in front of us that are meaningful.”
It has been a long time since those fiery March meetings between the two clubs in the Concacaf Champions League quarterfinals. Toronto would win the first leg 2-1 at home and they got the two away goals they needed at El Volcan to advance to the semifinals despite a 3-2 defeat. Toronto knocked off Club América in the semis before suffering a heartbreaking penalty-kick shootout loss to Chivas Guadalajara in the finals.
Former MLS player and current ESPN analyst Herculez Gomez, who played for both Toronto and Tigres, noted that for all the plaudits TFC earned during their Champions League run, their play in MLS this year (7W-14L-6D record) has taken away some of that luster. Wednesday brings with it a chance to remind those in Mexico, let alone the rest of the league, of what TFC is capable.
To that aim, the recent international break was helpful, but the injuries that have plagued TFC all season must still be a consideration with Victor Vazquez, Auro, and Chris Mavinga still not fully fit.
“We're going to play to win, no matter what,” stressed Vanney. “It becomes a risk-reward scenario ... We will pick a group that is most prepared, most ready, and capable of executing a game plan to win this cup.”
Could this date against Tigres provide the spark that TFC needs as they battle for their MLS postseason lives?
“It's possible,” admitted Vanney. “We're a product of what our season has been, what this group has endured. What we know is that there is a championship and a very good opponent on the other side. It's Mexican champion, MLS former champion in a one-off game for a cup.”
Despite the challenges facing his team on multiple fronts at this stage of the season, Vanney is still an “avid supporter” of the new competition.
"It's good for our league," Vanney said, "good for the competition that we all seek outside of our league.”