The capture of an historic treble last year by Toronto FC didn’t sit well with many rival fans south of the border, for the Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup were accompanied by the Canadian Championship, won by TFC in a field of just four teams.
Concacaf Champions League:
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 20
8 pm ET Herediano (CRC) vs. Tigres (MEX), UDN
10 pm ET Colorado Rapids vs. Toronto FC, UnivisionDeportes.com/Univision Now
American fans regard the domestic counterpart, the U.S. Open Cup, as a much tougher trophy to secure. Yet very few could contest the theory that Toronto FC is perhaps the strongest threat ever produced by MLS to challenge for a title none of its teams has ever won, the Concacaf Champions League, which kicks off Tuesday on the road against Colorado. TFC is also gunning for a third straight appearance in the MLS Cup final, a feat attained by only two teams in 22 years of competition.
To help prepare for a possible semifinal against Mexican opposition TFC spent part of the preseason in Mexico City, where it beat Cruz Azul, 4-1, last week to wrap up its schedule of tuneup games.
“It was a good day,” said head coach Greg Vanney to the team Web site. “We wanted to finish preseason on a high note, tie some things together that we’ve been working on over the last few days and I think we did that.
"We went up against some good opposition; they pressed us, put us under pressure, made the game fast, but we showed a nice composure to be able to play through them and create chances. I’m pleased with where we are. Physically, we looked a lot better as the match wore on.”
The Colorado-Toronto FC winner will play either Herediano or Tigres in the quarterfinals. A short stint in Mexico City may come in handy for the first leg at the mile-high altitude of Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, where the Rapids were a respectable 8-5-4 last year while finishing 10th in the Western Conference with 33 points, just one more bottom-dwellers D.C. United and L.A Galaxy in the overall standings.
Vanney hasn’t much time during the preseason to work newcomers Gregory van der Weil and Auro into his system, but an impressive returning cast that includes goalkeeper Alex Bono, defender Drew Moor, midfielder Michael Bradley, playmaker Victor Vazquez, and forwards Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore is reason enough to expect another stellar season in Ontario. In an Eastern Conference lineup that again looks loaded, TFC is the team to beat.
“I think I can speak for everyone when I say that we’re looking forward to some competitive matches,” said Vanney. “Nobody loves preseason, so everyone’s ready to get to some games that are meaningful and purposeful. We know that the beginning of the season will be about working through some little things, but we’re in a good position."
IN: Ayo Akinola (Homegrown signing), Liam Fraser (Homegrown signing), Gregory van der Wiel (Cagliari/ITA, transfer), Auro (Sao Paulo/BRA, loan).
OUT: Steven Beitashour (Los Angeles FC), Jason Hernandez, Mark Pais, Brandon Aubrey (Bethlehem Steel), Oyvind Alseth, Sergio Camargo, Armando Cooper (Universidad de Chile, free), Benoit Cheyrou (retired), Tsubasa Endoh, Raheem Edwards (Los Angeles FC, Expansion Draft).
Goalkeepers: Alex Bono, Clint Irwin.
Defenders: Auro, Nick Hagglund, Nicolas Hasler, Chris Mavinga, Drew Moor, Ashtone Morgan, Justin Morrow, Gregory van der Wiel, Eriq Zavaleta.
Midfielders: Michael Bradley, Jay Chapman, Marky Delgado, Liam Fraser, Jonathan Osorio, Victor Vazquez.
Forwards: Ayo Akinola, Jozy Altidore, Sebastian Giovinco, Jordan Hamilton, Tosaint Ricketts, Ben Spencer.