CCL Preview: Win or go home for Toronto in El Salvador
CD ÁGUILA vs. TORONTO FC
Estadio Cuscatlán, San Salvador, El Salvador
CONCACAF Champions League Group 1
September 25, 2012
10 pm ET, FOX Soccer, Sportsnet One
Toronto FC arrived in El Salvador on Monday night on the eve of a must-win match Tuesday in the 2012-13 CONCACAF Champions League against CD Águila.
The Reds have three points from two games in Group 1, the win coming at the expense of Águila in a 5-1 final on August 1 at BMO Field. Toronto lost their second match against group leader Santos Laguna 3-1, making it mandatory for the Reds to win their two remaining games – both on the road in Central America – to have a chance at advancing to the CCL quarterfinals. Only the group winners can go through to the next round in a change of format from the last campaign that saw Toronto reach CCL semifinals after finishing second in their group.
Mexican champions Santos have won all nine points available in the three games played, mercilessly outscoring opponents 12-1 in the process. Should Toronto win on Tuesday and move within three points of the leaders, they'll need to win by more than two goals in Torreón against Santos on October 24 to go through. A draw or a loss against Águila sees the Reds end their CCL campaign that started with winning the Canadian Championship for the fourth consecutive season this spring.
WATCH: Lambe on facing Águila again
WINNING BACK CONFIDENCE
In their three group games Águila have conceded 14 times, nine of them against Santos Laguna over two legs. For a Toronto team that's coping with injuries to top players and a congested schedule that will force them on as many five-hour flights as training sessions this week, a porous Águila defence may present the Reds with a few chances to capitalize.
Reggie Lambe scored twice in the first match against Águila, he sees Tuesday as an opportunity to return to the score sheet. However, with Toronto on a 10-game MLS winless streak, the Bermuda international cautions that the team must "bring our 'A' game" to win maximum points. Lambe went on to say it's a chance for the club and its fans to regain some confidence after a difficult run of games: "I just think if we can get a win, then fans can get back behind us and then we can keep pushing for a few more wins through the end of season."
MORE FORWARD THINKING
Quincy Amarikwa echoed Lambe's sentiments before the Reds departed for El Salvador. The speedy forward came in as a second half substitute to provide more support for Ryan Johnson and in-form attacker Luis Silva up front on Saturday, a match the club lost 4-2 to a powerful LA Galaxy side that sprinted ahead to a three-goal cushion in 36 minutes.
Amarikwa expects things to be different in El Salvador with Águila already out of CCL contention and Toronto needing to exploit every opportunity.
WATCH: Amarikwa on TFC's strategy
"I expect to throw everything at them," Amarikwa told Toronto FC TV. "There's no score line to protect ... players might come in a little more relaxed, hopefully we get our opportunities and take advantage."
The Bakersfield, Calif., native received a mention from head coach Paul Mariner in his postgame interview for making a positive impact Saturday. On Tuesday, he'll learn if he did enough to earn a spot in the starting 11.
Toronto received a scare on Saturday when defender Richard Eckersley collided in mid-air with LA's Mike Magee. The Englishman was substituted at halftime due to a head injury and could be rested on Tuesday. Toronto have traveled with Adrian Cann, Dicoy Williams and Doneil Henry as potential replacements should Eckersley be unable to line up at center back next to Darren O'Dea, though Henry has been recovering from a knee injury that may limit his availability.
Fullbacks Ashtone Morgan and Jeremy Hall should keep their place in the squad after playing 90 minutes on Saturday. Hall is eager to get back on the win column, telling Toronto FC TV that he expects to see more intensity due to the must-win nature of the match from the first minute. "Hopefully we can come out hard, score some goals, defend well," Hall said.
Águila are currently in third place after 10 matches in the Salvadoran Primera División's Apertura tournament. Over the weekend, they beat Alianza 2-0 with second-half goals from José Gutiérrez and Walter Soto. The pair are joint leading scorers on the team along with midfielder Darwin Bonilla with two each.
Osael Romero is known to score from the midfield as well, he tallied six times in Águila's 2012 Clausura title run, but he is expected to be with the Salvadoran national side along with goalkeeper Benji Villalobos, defender Mardoqueo Henriquez and attacking midfielder Isidro Gutierrez.
The club is captained by 31-year old defender and El Salvador international Luis Anaya. Former player Victor Coreas manages Águila. He coached them to the 2012 championship in his first season, earning a CCL spot.