To Chicago With Confidence

Reds riding CCL momentum ahead of weekend MLS clash.

TORONTO – Paul Mariner knows how elusive confidence can be, so the Toronto FC head coach was delighted to see his team regain it with a dominating performance on Wednesday.

Coming off a poor 2-0 loss to Houston last weekend, the Reds trounced travel-weary CD Águila of El Salvador 5-1 in their opening group-stage match of the CONCACAF Champions League at BMO Field.

“Any serious game of football is always an educational process for the staff and for the players,” Mariner said after Wednesday’s game. “It's all about confidence. Anybody who has played this game knows full well that confidence is the golden chalice because it can drain away from you so quickly. It takes a few games to build confidence.”

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Video: Ryan Johnson following midweek CCL victory.

With Wednesday’s result well in hand, Mariner was also able to remove players like Torsten Frings and Ryan Johnson early to rest them. Mariner concluded it was “an extremely meaningful game.”

The visitors had to spend Tuesday night at the airport in Miami because of a missed connection and did not arrive in Toronto until the afternoon of the game. But Mariner feels that it did not take away from what his team accomplished and how it will put them in a good frame of mind for Saturday’s league match in Chicago (on GOLTV Canada at 8:30 p.m. ET).

“I know about their travel issues and I have sentiments after the fact,” Mariner said of Águila. “You just have to play against the people they put in front of you. It's unfortunate about the travel situation, but … I thought they had some really good players.

“I think they caught us on a good night. Unfortunately for them we were poor against Houston, and I asked for a response and got a response. I'm very pleased for the lads.”

Added Johnson, who stamped his name on the score sheet Wednesday: “It's good for our confidence. Going into Chicago, it's a big game for us, and this helps everybody. We had a lot of opportunities in the offensive area and this will make us more comfortable on Saturday when we're in those positions. We found each other's feet, as opposed to the last game.”

TFC will have to keep finding each others' feet if they have any chance at all of making an unlikely run to the postseason.

“If we’re going to make this playoff push, we have to beat teams at their homes and it is going to start with Chicago,” Johnson said. “We just have to bring the intensity, kind of push the team up a little bit forward and don’t give them time on the ball.

"That’s one of the things we did the last time against Houston. We gave them too much time on the ball and allowed them to play the ball anywhere they wanted to and that’s something we have to stop against Chicago.”