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TFC defense in need of answers to stop Gomez, Santos Laguna in CCL semifinals

TFC (Getty Images)

If Toronto FC is to figure out a remedy for their defensive problems, Wednesday night would be an ideal time to do so.

TFC, Major League Soccer's last hope in the CONCACAF Champions League, welcomes red-hot Herculez Gomez and in-form Santos Laguna to BMO Field Wednesday night for the opening match of their CCL semifinal match (8 p.m., Fox Soccer Channel/Telefutura/

After Toronto upset the Los Angeles Galaxy in the quarterfinals, there was reason for belief in the success-starved Reds. After all, if they could eliminate the star-studded Galaxy, what's to say they couldn't take down a Mexican power as well? With Ryan Johnson performing like an All-Star forward, rookie midfielder Luis Silva making valuable contributions and Torsten Frings asserting control on both ends of the field, TFC had the makings of a capable underdog.

Oh, how the tide has turned.

Frings suffered a hamstring injury in the Reds' first league game after their CCL triumph, and the TFC defense has been catastrophic ever since. Without the sweeping German international providing cover, making up for shoddy organization and positioning all while distributing accurately out of the back, Toronto has transformed from a formidable unit into one that lacks momentum at a time when it needs it most.

Losing goalkeeper Stefan Frei to a broken leg has been a setback as well, but Milos Kocic, who came up big in the second leg against the Galaxy, has proven to be a steady option in between the posts. Not like it has really mattered who is in goal for the club, though. The combination of Ashtone Morgan, Miguel Aceval, Ty Harden and Richard Eckersley has been stretched and exposed along the back without Frings' assistance, and asking rookie Aaron Maund to step in and be the answer is a bit of a tall order. 

The club has conceded three goals in each of its last two matches — against the Seattle Sounders (the team that Santos Laguna thrashed en route to the semifinals) and the San Jose Earthquakes — inspiring little confidence heading into a battle with a front line of Gomez, Oribe Peralta and Cristian Suarez. Now that Colombian Darwin Quintero, who was starting ahead of Gomez, is fit, Santos has yet another weapon to throw forward.

The true spark behind Santos' surge and current four-game winning streak across all competitions, though, has been Gomez. The American forward has scored in six consecutive games, tallying eight times in that span. Three of those goals came against the Sounders in both legs of their CCL quarterfinal matchup. His hot streak, Santos' form and the lack of stability on Toronto's back line would appear to be a recipe for disaster for the MLS side, which is hoping to match Real Salt Lake's feat of a year ago and reach the final. The next step in that quest will take place tonight in front of a wary fan base, one that just booed its team off the field Saturday but hopes its club has another upset or two left in its pocket.


Do you think TFC has a chance against Santos Laguna? Are you rooting for Gomez or MLS?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. I don’t think that the Galaxy are world-beaters, and I’m certainly not a fan of theirs, but I’d be pretty surprised to see the Galaxy not perform well in Japan, Mexico, even some of the South American leagues.

    When I say perform well, I don’t mean stroll in for a championship, or even win one, but I definitely think there is enough class in that squad to be near the top of the table in those leagues.. Brazil and Argentina being the exception (though I doubt they’d get relegated from those leagues)

  2. Two week ago, I am thinking one goal in the next 30 minutes and my Sounders go through. Now I wake up from being hit on the head by three Santos’ goals and a beaten up Toronto is the MLS hope.


  3. LOL…when I read your statement, all I could think of was “dead man walking”.

    Let’s be kind and at least wait until the 180 min have been played before making a statement like that. You never know, maybe the entire team comes down with a flu or something and Santos have to put in third and fourth strings in.

  4. Yes, built to lose the Club World Cup in embarrassing fashion. Teams in MLS just don’t usually have enough depth to overcome losing their defensive lynchpin. It was true with Vancouver and Toronto last year, with LA this year with Omar, and it’s true of TFC without Frings.

    Anyone who thinks LA is in the same league as the top teams in Europe, Mexico, Japan or South America should probably pass the wacky weed.

  5. Not a big Galaxy fan, but I was severely disappointed when Toronto won that series. Galaxy was built for the Club World Cup. Toronto, not so much. Sensing the need for a miracle against Santos..


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