TORONTO – The celebrations having just wound down, Toronto FC are already preparing for the next challenge.
“It's not a stretch to say [Champions League will be] one of the focuses,” said Jozy Altidore on Tuesday of next season's ambition. “We've got a couple of objectives done. Something you want to do multiple times if you can.”
“Now Champions League is coming up,” continued Altidore. “It'll be tricky, but it's exciting. You play the best teams from the region. There's nothing more you can ask for: test yourself, see where you stack up against historically strong teams in Mexico and Central America. [We] can't wait to see how the pot works out, who we are playing. Everybody is excited.”
Several high-profile players with TFC have never tasted the wiles of CONCACAF. They, like the rest, are looking forward to the challenge.
“For me, it's going to be a new competition,” said Victor Vazquez, a veteran of the UEFA version. “But we have a lot of experience. We have an amazing team like we showed. It's different, teams from everywhere: Panama, Honduras, Costa Rica, Mexico. We'll see what we get.”
“We have to be ready; it starts in two months,” added Vazquez. “Now we have holidays. We have to come back ready for it because we want to win this also.”
“The Champions League is our challenge now.”
Added Sebastian Giovinco: “This is a good test for us, to see how our level is. I'm curious.”
While Vazquez and Giovinco have not had the pleasure, several TFC starters have. Drew Moor played in the competition with the Colorado Rapids, while Justin Morrow did so with the San Jose Earthquakes.
“The format was different, we entered at the group phase,” recalled Moor. “It's difficult: in the middle of our season; midweek games against good competition.”
“We've set ourselves up to compete in that tournament. We're going to take it very seriously,” said Moor. “Preseason has been catered towards getting ready for Champions League. We've already been speaking about it. It's a competition we would love to win.”
Said Morrow: “It's a big challenge.”
“It's a different feeling: a regional tournament, playing against teams outside of MLS, which is different for a lot of guys who have only played in MLS like me,” continued Morrow. “You relish playing against Mexican teams, Central American teams. It's awesome.”
Veterans of the international game like Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore will be looked to for their experience in the region.
“I've done it a long time, with the national team,” said Altidore. “Those aren't easy games.”
“This team is different. We have players that technically are very able to adjust to those environments. I'm sure the club is working to identify even more to help us,” continued Altidore. “Like anything else, we can't rest on our laurels; we have to get stronger.”
“The rest of the pack is coming,” reminded Altidore. “Not only for Champions League, but for MLS. There is no time to rest, we have to keep going. That's who we want to be, that's what we want Toronto FC to be. A club that is always looking forward and a club that everyone is looking at.”