Playing It Safe Against Santos

TORONTO – In knockout rounds of cup matches well executed tactics can nullify any perceived advantages one side enjoys over the other.

On Wednesday, when Santos Laguna visits BMO Field to take on Toronto FC (live on Sportsnet Ontario & One at 8 p.m. ET), the Reds will hope to employ a method that will give them the leverage needed in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League semifinal.

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Toronto FC first assistant coach Bob de Klerk addressed tactics following training on Tuesday. The first goal for the Reds will be not to concede one.  

“It’s very important. The most important is to keep the ‘zero’ because you have two games to go,” de Klerk told the media before hinting at Toronto’s potential team shape on Wednesday.  

“We (will) try to make it very compact,” the coach continued. “You have to play compact when you don’t have the ball. We know that. We have to be sharp on the second ball.”

Conceding the away goal is the most deflating experience a home team can have in the first leg inside a close contest. It implies an advantage for the squad heading back to their yard for the return fixture.

For a club that has conceded six goals in its last two league matches, up against the Mexican table-topper who scored as many in its last CCL outing alone, there is concern.

“Keeping the high line exposed us in the last two games,” forward Ryan Johnson offered in his media scrum. “We’re going to drop the line a little bit.”

Toronto shouldn't give Santos Laguna much space to operate on Wednesday. The second tactical piece is hitting the visitors on a counter-attack and hopefully take an advantage to Torreon on April 4.

This plan has brought success to many underdogs in cup matches world over. Now the execution awaits.

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