Entering Wednesday’s Champions League match winless in seven games (five domestic, two CCL), Pumas was either going to continue its implosion facing Toronto FC, or finally have the breakthrough that manager Guillermo Vazquez has been promising for weeks.
To that end, the boss abandoned his youth policy that has served the Mexican champions poorly in the CCL Group C table (one point from two games), and inserted several regulars into his lineup. The first team delivered the breakthrough with a 4-0 win over Toronto.
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VIDEO: Midfielder Terry Dunfield following Reds' loss to Pumas.
It was always going to be a tricky tie for TFC. Pumas came into the contest hungry for a victory and the Reds, already stretched with hurt and cup-tied players, arrived in Mexico City without the services of three more regulars.
Goalkeeper Stefan Frei and forward Joao Plata both picked up injuries in the 4-2 win over Columbus at the weekend. Defender Richard Eckersley was missed due to suspension and his void became more apparent when Toronto’s backline was exposed, surrendering four goals in the opening half.
While the score line and the manner in which it was derived was disheartening – with Pumas posting a dominating double digit edge on attempts and shots on target – Toronto must keep its collective chin up because this tournament is far from over. TFC still controls its own CCL destiny, provided they get results.
The Reds play their next two CCL matches at BMO Field to Tauro F.C. (September 20) and the return engagement against Pumas seven days later.
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Tauro – the Panama champion – earned a surprise 1-1 draw in Dallas on Wednesday. This tightens Group C. Dallas leads with seven points, Pumas jumps to second with four, Toronto trails the Mexicans by just one and Tauro is right behind the Canadian side with a pair of points earned in plucky draws.
Toronto will have to regroup and put in a confident performance against Tauro at BMO Field next Tuesday. Following that, they’ll also have to be ready for what could virtually prove to be a winner-take-all showdown against Pumas at home on September 27, to finish top two in Group C and book a ticket to the quarterfinals.
While attendance for non-MLS matches have been sparse this year, if there were any two games this season to get behind TFC, September 20 and 27 must surely be at the top of a short priority list.