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MLS teams face tough road tests
by Ridge Mahoney, August 4th, 2009 7AM

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[CONCACAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE] Toronto FC and D.C. United need better performances and results than they attained in the first legs when they square off against Puerto Rico Islanders and Luis Angel Firpo, respectively, in the away matches of their Concacaf Champions League series Tuesday.
 
After tying New England, 1-1, at Gillette Stadium on Saturday, TFC arrived in Puerto Rico Sunday afternoon trailing 1-0 from the first leg at BMO Field last week. Ex-Islander and Puerto Rico captain Marco Velez received a hearty welcome from fans and journalists at the airport. He played 86 games for the USL-1 Islanders before coming to Toronto last season.

"It is great to be back home," said Velez. "People in Puerto Rico are very passionate about soccer and I have had some very good times here. It's nice because I get to visit for a few days and there will be plenty of support from my family here to watch the game."

TFC head coach Chris Cummins hopes midfielder Amado Guevara, who has sat out the last two games with a rib injury, will be able to play in the second leg (TV: Fox Soccer Channel, live, 8 p.m. ET). A deep-lying midfield role that he has played in road games produced results like a 3-1 win in San Jose last month.

Of the 1-0 loss at BMO Field last week, Cummins said, "We were disappointed with the result and our performance last week and we know it will be difficult to break them down, but we have to be positive."

United also played an MLS road game last week, falling to Houston, 4-3, at Robertson Stadium after conceding three goals in three minutes near the end of the first half. It tied Firpo, 1-1, at RFK Stadium a week ago in the first leg.
 
"We felt we were the better team at home and should've expected to win against Firpo," said defender Bryan Namoff. "But now we have to go there and show that we're the better team overall, regardless of being away."

After falling behind, 3-0, United switched from its usual 3-5-2 formation to a four-man back line, and coach Tom Soehn said using four in the back against Firpo is a possibility for the return match (TV: Fox Soccer Channel, live, 10 p.m. ET). It conceded a bad goal against Firpo in the first leg when defender Greg Janicki gave the ball right to Mario Benitez, who rifled a shot past goalie Milos Kocic.

"A lot of times it's mistakes on our part, which has either caused a goal or led to a goal, and it's just a frustrating time where these types of mistakes keep continuing to happen," said Namoff. "It's problematic."

United equalized with a Jaime Moreno penalty near the end of the first half and despite threatening several times failed to score the vital second goal. Soehn must decide whether to go with Kocic again; after conceding four in Houston, keeper Josh Wicks may not be ready for a tough foe in a harsh environment.



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