Toronto FC marched forward on their quest to capture every trophy in front of them on Tuesday night, but they did so while delivering a statement about not only themselves, but all of MLS. It’s a statement that says the league is ready to compete with the best teams CONCACAF has to offer.
Over two legs of CONCACAF Champions League action, TFC, the defending MLS Cup Champions, took down Tigres, the defending Liga MX Apertura champions, putting the club into the CCL semi-finals for the second time in club history. The win is a landmark for Toronto as a club, but also the league as a while, who now have two clubs in the semis for the first time since 2013. The league hopes to have a third with the Seattle Sounders carrying a one goal lead into their second leg with Chivas de Guadalajara.
“It’s huge. It’s huge for club,” midfielder and Canadian international Jonathan Osorio said after the match. “It’s huge for the league, for the country. It’s big.”
“I think this is a huge statement, but the statement doesn’t mean nothing until we take care of business in the tournament. No matter what we have to win this tournament or most people will say it’s a failure.”
Many things allowed them to deliver that message, but head coach Greg Vanney credits a team with an identity and good players, as well as a league that has evolved to allow its teams to for better units capable of competing against the best the continent has to offer.
“I think the MLS is evolving, and evolving pretty quickly,” the coach said. “I think it’s a league that’s still maturing. The league itself is givinging new mechanisms to be able to go out and bring in more experienced players, spend a little bit more money on our rosters.”
“When you have an identity and you have good players who are capable of making plays and you respect both side of the game you have the ability to get results. And that’s what worked out for us tonight.”
But the job isn’t done yet for the club, or the league.
Next up for TFC is a semi-final tie, likely against current Liga MX leaders and seven time CONCACAF champions Club America. That’s a tough enough task for them to accomplish, but the league as a whole also has two more shots at the final.
The Seattle Sounders carry a 1-0 lead into an away leg against struggling Chivas de Guadalajara, and the winner of that match takes on the New York Red Bulls, who thrashed Club Tijuana 5-1 over two legs in their quarterfinal tie.
But Toronto know their role and they aren’t short on confidence going forward thanks to their victory over one of the best teams in North America.
“We’re confident, but we’re cautious,” forward Jozy Altidore said. “America, or whoever we play in the next round, is a good team and we understand that we have to be better over the two legs if we want to ensure our passage to the final.”
“We’re fully capable of winning this event,” said Vanney. “This was a huge series in showing our ability to do so. Obviously making do with our home matches is very important cause it’s very difficult to come down to Mexico and go and get results.”