Preview: Toronto FC enters CCL final with 'favorites' tag -- Vanney isn't buying

In the last two rounds of the Concacaf Champions League, Toronto FC knocked off Tigres and Club America, two of Mexico's biggest clubs.

The Reds used the same formula both times: Win at BMO Field and score first in Mexico. In the two series, they scored nine goals combined and never trailed on aggregate in Mexico.

If TFC wants to become the first MLS team to win the regional championship, it will need more of the same against another Liga MX powerhouse, Chivas de Guadalajara.

Chivas earned the top seed with the best record in the knockout phase and its defensive record -- one goal allowed in six games -- was easily the best of any team in the tournament. But it will be without three defensive players for the first leg: goalkeeper Rodolfo Cota and left back Edwin Hernandez are suspended for yellow-card accumulation, and center back Jair Pereira is serving the second game of his two-game suspension for grabbing New York Red Bulls midfielder Sean Davis by the throat in the first leg of their semifinal series.

Regardless of the personnel, Chivas' pressing style -- "they get very personal" is how Toronto FC coach Greg Vanney describes it -- will present a unique challenge for the MLS champs.

"They’re very disciplined in that," Vanney said of Chivas' man-marking system. "They’re very good at the individual marking in terms of taking up good angles and taking up good marking positions and moving with guys. In that way, they’re unique. They don’t give you a lot of time individually on the ball, necessarily, because always somebody is right with you. That’s how they’re unique."

TFC finished the second leg of its semifinal series without five starters, but four of them should be ready for Tuesday's series opener.
 
Jozy Altidore left the game at Azteca in the sixth minute with a foot injury, while Dutchman Gregory van der Wiel exited at the half with an Achilles tendon problem. Neither Chris Mavinga (groin) nor Justin Morrow (calf) played in the semifinals, but they should be ready to go on Tuesday. That leaves Victor Vazquez (back) as the only question mark.

On paper, Chivas is the weakest of the three Mexican teams TFC has faced. Club America and Tigres are tied for third place with two games to play in the Torneo Clausura, while Chivas is 16th out of 18 teams. When you add in weather considerations -- it's been raining and snowing in Toronto -- Toronto FC will be favored.

“When you get into games like this," said Vanney, "I don’t buy into the 'favorites' stuff. I think you have to go out and execute and make plays on both ends and give yourselves the best opportunity to win.”

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