Toronto won the opening leg of their semifinal series with Club América 3-1 at the BMO Field, and will be taking a two goal lead with them to Mexico this week. In fact, Toronto are already in Mexico a week early, to better prepare themselves for the conditions in Mexico City.
Chivas recorded a narrow win over New York in the first leg of the other series and will head to Harrison with a decent base to build on.
There are quite a few things to unpack from these first legs, so let’s get into them.
Toronto the Favorites?
It’s not out of the question or even unlikely that América could overturn the deficit against Toronto, but the Reds definitely have the advantage and even the biggest América believers would have to say Toronto’s odds to advance are above 50% at this point.
The vibe before and after the first leg was very much that there was an A series and a B series. The consensus was always that the América/Toronto winner would take home the title, and that looks even more true now.
Giovinco probably has to be player of the tournament at this point, and he can really cement himself in Concacaf history with a good performance at the Azteca, the region’s biggest stage.
How do Chivas Approach the 2nd Leg?
Chivas hold a 1-0 lead over the Red Bulls but face a tactical dilemma. How do you handle such a small lead heading into a road leg?
The Red Bulls have been able to put up goals at home so far in this tournament, so defending seems risky, but at the same time you don’t want to come out too aggressive and lose your lead early on.
The away goal for Chivas would probably be all they need to take their place in the final, so it’ll be interesting to see how much they push for it. Matías Almeyda’s history tells us they’ll take a more conservative approach.
Concacaf being Concacaf
Part of the beauty of Concacaf soccer is the stuff that makes it Concacaf in the first place. Deep down, we all love the controversy, the shenanigans, the sometimes questionable officiating, and the overall vibe that comes with Concacaf games.
And the semi-finals, as you might imagine, had plenty of Concacaf in them. Both games were incredibly chippy from the jump, with América and Toronto boiling over into a halftime fight. América boss Miguel Herrera even accused the Toronto Police Department of assaulting his players during the scuffle.
The Chivas game got heated too, especially after some calls seemed to go in favor of the home team. Matías Almeyda showed a lot more respect for MLS during the pregame than Herrera did, but not a lot more respect was shown on the field in either direction.
Also falling into this category: the Red Bulls ticket policy. Obviously, Chivas have a huge presence in the NY/NJ area, and the Red Bulls haven’t exactly been filling up the arena for Wednesday night CCL action.
Naturally, the club got a bit nervous about the possibility of a Chivas takeover, so they set up a special ticket policy for the game. Tickets for NYRB vs Chivas are only available as part of a package of three games; this forces Chivas fans to either spend triple the money to see their club, become temporary Red Bulls supporters in exchange for a chance to see Chivas, or ignore the game altogether and watch on TV.
It’s a great strategic ploy, and a perfect example of how the front office of a club can contribute to success aside from buying players.