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TFC looks to get the ball rolling on MLS domination in CONCACAF final

Toronto FC's Jonathan Osorio, centre, is congratulated by members of his team after advancing to the CONCACAF Champions League soccer final last Tuesday.

Eduardo Verdugo/The Canadian Press

Jonathan Osorio says Toronto FC has the chance to start a seismic shift in North American club soccer.

Toronto opens the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League final on Tuesday night at BMO Field against Liga MX side C.D. Guadalajara. Mexican clubs have owned this competition for years, but Osorio hopes Toronto’s success thus far will rub off on other Major League Soccer teams.

“I think it’s pretty clear that an MLS club hasn’t won this competition since the change in the format, since it became CONCACAF Champions League, so to be the first to do that would be huge,” Osorio said. “I think for it to really change soccer, both in [the United States] and Canada, MLS clubs will have to continue to win this tournament, because the Liga MX guys have a big history, have a head start of winning this tournament.

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“It starts with us, that’s huge, of course, but I think that gives the other teams, and of course ourselves, that belief that it can be done.”

Mexican clubs have won every CONCACAF Champions League since the first tournament in 2008, while seven of the nine finals have been all-Liga MX matches.

Real Salt Lake (2011) and the Montreal Impact (2015) are the previous two MLS clubs to reach the final. Toronto made it as far as the semi-finals in 2011-12.

TFC, the reigning MLS Cup champions, earned a berth in the tournament final after dispatching MLS side Colorado Rapids along with Mexican clubs Tigres and Club America.

C.D. Guadalajara, better known as Chivas, has won the Mexican title a record 12 times and won the Champions League in 2015 and 2016.

Entering Tuesday’s first leg, the Reds will have to be aware of Guadalajara’s unique defending style.

“Once they decide to initiate pressure, they get very personal, man-on-man marking, they will track guys all around the field, they’re very disciplined in that,” TFC coach Greg Vanney said. “They are very good at the individual marking in terms of taking up good angles and taking up good marking positions and moving with guys.

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“That way, they’re unique. They don’t give you a lot of time individually, on the ball necessarily because always somebody is right with you.”

BMO Field’s grounds crew has taken measures over the past few days to ensure the pitch will be in the best possible shape despite heavy rain, snow and sub-zero temperatures over the past three days.

Despite the weather, Vanney said there has been no thought given to moving the game to another date to provide for better pitch conditions.

“My understanding is the field has been covered the last few days,” he said. “Obviously, I think the worst of what we’ll face is behind us, in terms of the rain and everything. It’s been covered and between today and tomorrow, they’ll get the cover off, which should’ve kept [the field] relatively dry, I would think. Then it’ll just be a matter of how it acts over the next 24 hours once they uncover it.”

There could be some good news on the injury front for TFC as Chris Mavinga, Justin Morrow and Victor Vazquez have all passed the necessary tests and are available for minutes.

The second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League final is scheduled for April 25 in Guadalajara, Mexico. The winner of the CONCACAF Champions League qualifies for the FIFA Club World Cup featuring the six continental club champions.

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