TORONTO – In town for the inaugural edition of the Campeones Cup, Tuca Ferretti will not be underestimating the opposition.
Tigres UANL will face Toronto FC at BMO Field on Wednesday (8:15 pm ET | ESPN2, Univision in the US; TSN, TVA Sports in Canada) in the inter-league, winner-takes-all cup final.
“Toronto are at a really good level – an excellent level as champion of MLS,” said Ferretti in his pre-match press conference Tuesday. “We’ve faced each other, they beat us and we’re considered one of the big teams of Mexico.”
“Toronto would do well [in Liga MX]. I don’t think they would miss the Liguilla (playoffs),” continued Ferretti. “On the contrary: Toronto would be one of the teams regularly in the Liguilla and would have the expectations to be champions, just like they are champions in [MLS].”
The two sides clashed in the quarterfinals of the 2018 Concacaf Champions League, an epic two-legged affair that ended 4-4 – Toronto advanced on away goals – and will live long in the memory. It was a contest that earned TFC coach Greg Vanney and his side respect in Mexico.
“He’s a great coach and he has really good players. It’s a great team collectively, as well,” said Ferretti. “We know their qualities. Naturally, we’re going to counteract them and try to impose our style. [Both sides] have players of great quality. I hope my team shows that they’re not just players of great quality, but that they bring their quality collectively and overcome this Toronto team.”
That quarterfinal stage, in the fullness of time, may prove to be a turning point in the rivalry between MLS and Liga MX. All three MLS sides won the opening legs: Toronto and Seattle Sounders FC beat Tigres and Chivas Guadalajara at home, respectively, while the New York Red Bulls won away to Club Tijuana.
Toronto and New York progressed to the semifinals, where TFC dispatched Club América to reach the finals against Guadalajara, becoming the third MLS side to contest for the Concacaf crown, though Chivas would win on penalty kicks in the end.
“The progress of soccer in the United States has been impressive in recent years. To compete against other sports that have been around for more than 100 years – football, basketball, baseball – and to achieve what [MLS] has in such a short time, it’s something to be applauded,” said Ferretti. “Today it’s the sport that’s played most by American and Canadian kids. It’s an evolution. And the difference [between MLS and Liga MX] that existed several years ago, doesn’t exist today.”
Despite playing El Clásico Regiomontano on Sunday against city rivals Monterrey, Tigres will not be holding back against the MLS champions.
“I don’t think there will be many changes [in the lineup],” suggested Ferretti. “If I was thinking of changes, I wouldn’t have made the whole team travel.”
After all, Toronto denied Tigres a shot at lifting the Champions League crown.
“We know this field and know who we’re up against: a rival that plays well and that tries to take care of the ball,” said Tigres goalkeeper Nahuel Guzman. “All of the precedents serve us in a positive way, as an experience, and help us not to repeat mistakes. I’ve said it before, it’s not revenge. It’s a game and the winner keeps the cup. We’re looking to be the ones.”