Santos Sends Stars To Toronto

Visitors not taking TFC lightly ahead of CCL semifinal first leg on Wednesday.

Photo: Herculez Gomez (left) & Santos Laguna beat Seattle 7-3 agg. in CCL quarterfinals (Concacaf.com).

On Wednesday, Toronto FC will reach a new high in club and Canadian history. When the Reds walk out onto the pitch at BMO Field, it will be to play in the first leg of the semifinals in the CONCACAF Champions League.

It’s a first for TFC or any Canadian team.

Lined up next to the Reds in the tunnel will be a group of goliaths currently co-ruling Mexico’s Primera Division. Santos has won four straight league games and in all of them, American international Herculez Gomez has found the back of the net.

Gomez is easy to like. Often a comedian and prankster, he will have already endeared himself to some Torontonians with this earnest tweet on Monday:

After such a gracious admission, I can even forgive that Gomez didn't use Samuel Johnson's English in his spelling.

Before moving to Mexico, the Los Angeles native played for his hometown Galaxy, then later Colorado and Kansas City. Those with a good memory of TFC matches will even remember him scoring at BMO Field for Colorado in the Reds’ inaugural season. Toronto won the match 2-1 finishing with 10-men.

While Santos and Gomez are on a roll, it has to be said that the 2-0 win over Queretaro on Saturday came against a team that was down to nine men for over 40 minutes. Midfielder Juan Rodriguez opened the scoring on a penalty, Gomez delivered the final blow with a 75th minute header.

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The team had some trouble traveling to Toronto in two groups, but they arrive with confidence, but also some respect. Perhaps more, one might argue, than TFC receives from its MLS counterparts.

According to the news site Informador.com, defender Felipe Baloy said Toronto is a team “that plays well and has major players.” However, the Panamanian insists “we’re going to Toronto to win.”

Manager Benjamin Galindo is aware of the Reds’ recent injury troubles and will look to take the advantage back to Torreon for the second leg on April 4. His intentions were relayed by goalkeeper Oswaldo Sanchez, who said the club will “seek to win (at BMO Field) to return to Torreon more calmly.”

It was reported by Informador that Galindo has traveled with goalkeepers Sanchez and Miguel Becerra.

Defenders Baloy, Santiago Hoyos, Aaron Galindo, Rafael Figueroa, Ivan Estrada, Cesar Ibanez, Antonio Olvera and Osmar Mares have also joined the party.

Midfielders in the group are Marc Crosas, Rodolfo Salinas, Carlos Morales, Jaime Toledo, Candido Ramirez and the attack-minded Christian Suarez.

Finally, forwards Oribe Peralta, Darwin Quintero, Carlos Ochoa and Gomez round out the squad.

Sanchez is the captain, but Reds catch a slight break in that vice-captain and influential midfielder Rodriguez did not travel due to suspension.

That won’t quite make up for Toronto playing without Torsten Frings, but while the Mexican manager Galindo hasn’t yet revealed his starting eleven, if the reports are true, it is a compliment to TFC that he traveled most of his first team in the event they are needed on Wednesday.

If the Reds put in the effort shown against MLS league and Cup champion LA Galaxy in Toronto's quarterfinal triumph, the contest against the Mexican standouts should be a fantastic match. Win, lose or draw against these giants of Torreon, Toronto will always love a team that leaves everything on the pitch.

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