Bradley Tigres

Confident Reds won't rest on their laurels for second leg in Mexico

TORONTO – Now the calm before the storm.

With Wednesday night's epic 2-1 victory over Tigres UANL at BMO Field in the first leg of their 2018 CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal encounter, Toronto FC await the decisive return leg on Tuesday in Mexico (10 pm ET | TSN 4/5).

“We feel good going down there with a positive result,” said Greg Vanney post-match. “We're confident in our team, what we are capable of doing.

“In terms of the climate and the field, those are both things that we're looking forward to,” continued TFC’s head coach. “We spent time down in Mexico in preseason. The guys know what that is like. We look forward to a different surface. It gives us an opportunity to take advantage of more ball circulation. It works for both teams, both like to play on the ground as much as possible, move the ball quickly.”

Even the much-heralded atmosphere in Mexican stadiums will not be daunting to Toronto.

“We'll look forward to [it],” said Vanney. “We know it's going to be loud; know it's not going to be friendly. We've got ourselves a position we can play from. We're going to stay aggressive and get the goal when we're on the road.”

Added defender Chris Mavinga: “It will be a good atmosphere, but I don't care, I just want to win. We know it will be hot there, it's not a big deal. Just focus on my game, be ready to fight against this good team.”

Buoyant from last week's result, TFC will look to carry that confidence into the second leg.

“We are the best team in MLS,” said Victor Vazquez. “It doesn't matter if we play in Mexico; the altitude, the weather. We are a team that can play in any conditions. We saw it in Colorado.”

The game plan, too, is clear.

“We have to protect the lead,” said Jonathan Osorio. “At the same time, play the way we always play and try to score goals. If we score an away goal, we put pressure on them. We'll be looking for that, but we know we have the advantage.”

Throughout the record-setting 2017 campaign, the mantra of 'one game at a time' became their calling card. Home or away, Toronto approached each match the same.

So too on Tuesday.

“Play to win,” said Mavinga bluntly. “We don't want to sit back. If you sit back against a team like this, they can score goals. They have good players. [But] we have good attacking too: with Seba [Giovinco], with Jozy [Altidore], [we] can score. We need to play our game, our style. Don't change anything.”

The Reds will lean on their experience to navigate the match, as they did at BMO Field, absorbing all that Tigres offered before turning the tables on the visitors.

“Mexican teams try to make the game slow, to have the ball, to open the game, to stretch the lines, find spaces between the lines,” explained Vazquez, who played with Cruz Azul before joining TFC. “We did an amazing job. We were really sharp. We didn't play our best football, but we were good, won the first leg. That's the most important when you play at home.

“We conceded one goal, that's always dangerous,” noted Vazquez of the away goal. “But we're ahead. We will see what happens in the second leg. We are confident. Now we have to go to Mexico to tie or win the game.”

It will not be easy, of course; nothing worth doing ever comes easy. Tigres do have their threats.

“They have good players all over the field,” cautioned Michael Bradley. “Their two or three central attacking players – [Andre-Pierre] Gignac, [Enner] Valencia, [Eduardo] Vargas – are dangerous and can score at any moment, as we saw.”

Vargas scored the Tigres goal on a broken play; Gignac whistled one by the far post on the only clean look he had.

“It's going to be another great game,” added Bradley. “This is what we wanted.”

With all three of CCL’s remaining MLS teams having taken the advantage in the opening leg of their quarterfinal series, talk of a turning tide is in the air. Yet much remains to be done.

“We sent a message for all of North America: We can compete against a Mexican team,” said Mavinga. “It's still the second leg to play. We have to be ready to play, to win this game too.”