Five months ago to the day, Toronto FC and Santos Laguna kicked off the semifinals of the 2011-12 CONCACAF Champions League at BMO Field, with the Reds holding the Mexican power to a 1-1 draw before ultimately succumbing a week later in a 6-2 rout at Estadio Corona.
U.S. national team forward Herculez Gomez scored three of Santos Laguna's goals over the two legs, including the club's away goal in Toronto, and he'll look to be at his goal-scoring best again when Santos and TFC meet again in CCL play Tuesday night in Toronto (8 p.m., Fox Soccer Channel).
Group 1 will undoubtedly come down to either Santos or TFC, with both teams routing overmatched Salvadoran side Aguila en route to three points. Santos' 5-0 win supercedes Toronto's 5-1 thrashing for first place in the group standings, though, and considering the difficulties visiting teams have playing in Torreon, TFC is facing a situation in which it needs to take advantage of home field and net a three-point haul.
The club should have a fully rested Eric Hassli and Torsten Frings in the lineup Tuesday after both were left out of Toronto's league match in Houston over the weekend. TFC will also have a tool that they did not possess in last tournament's semifinals: A reliable central defender. Irish centerback Darren O'Dea has impressed since joining the club, but he'll face his biggest test on this side of the Atlantic Ocean in trying to stop Gomez and his high-scoring teammates.
As well as Santos played against Aguila last Tuesday — getting a hat trick from Darwin Quintero — the club is off to an uneven start in league play, going 2-2-2 to start the Liga MX apertura campaign. In fact, Santos have not won a league match in almost a month, when they beat Chivas de Guadalajara on July 29 in the second game of the season. Since then, Santos are 0-2-2 in league play but hope to make the CCL their springboard back to the form that made them champions of Mexico last spring.
How do you see tonight's match going? Do you think Toronto FC can take three points off Santos? Do you see Gomez burning Toronto yet again?
Share your thoughts below.