‘One-nil down and it’s halftime’
For the most ardent Toronto FC supporters, tonight’s must-win game inPuerto Rico in the CONCACAF Champions League is being approached with acertain degree of been-there-done-that confidence.
For the most ardent Toronto FC supporters, tonight’s must-win game in Puerto Rico in the CONCACAF Champions League is being approached with a certain degree of been-there-done-that confidence.
After all, it was barely six weeks ago when TFC went into Montreal needing a victory by at least four goals to win the Canadian championship and advance to this preliminary stage of the competition against the best in North and Central America and the Caribbean. They emerged with a 6-1 win.
By comparison, the need to go into Juan Ramon Loubriel Stadium to win the game while netting at least a pair of goals in order to advance to the group stage on aggregate, appears relatively modest.
Reality, of course, is much different. While the Montreal Impact were reeling, had recently changed coaches and rested players for an upcoming league game, the Puerto Rico Islanders are a team which sits near the top of the United Soccer League’s First Division, thrives on its appearances in the Champions League and comes into its first home game in more than six weeks well rested.
“They play with a lot of confidence in Puerto Rico,” said TFC defender Marco Velez, a native son who played three seasons with the Islanders before joining Toronto last year. He described the stadium in the San Juan suburb of Bayamon as a “very difficult” place to play for the visitors because of the heat and the home side feeds off the boisterous crowd, which he said is typically about 9,000.
“They’re dangerous at home,” Velez said. “They’re a lot more dangerous than on the road.”
Losers of just one of 11 home games this year, (7-1-3), the Islanders played a tight defensive match last Wednesday in the opening leg in Toronto. Content to put every man deep in their own end, they capitalized on a scoring opportunity against the flow of the play in the second half to win 1-0.
Goalkeeper Bill Gaudette, who has eight shutouts in 21 league games this season, made some brilliant saves in the late stages of the match to make Kendall Jagdeosingh’s 67th minute strike the winner.
TFC coach Chris Cummins said despite the “disappointing” loss to Puerto Rico last week, it’s important to go into tonight’s game with some perspective.
“At the end of the day, we’re one-nil down and it’s halftime,” Cummins said. “We definitely know we can go there and score goals but we’ve got to take a lot more responsibility in our defending.”