TFC wins but will it be enough?

STEVEN SANDOR, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:47 AM ET

Motagua doesn’t begin the Honduran season until the second week of August.

It was painfully obvious from the opening kickoff of Tuesday’s first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League qualifier that the Honduran league’s runners-up from 2009-10 were not in game shape.

They were a mess. The defenders couldn’t hold a line. There were missed marking assignments all over the field.

But, against a Motagua backline that was slow and disorganized, the fact that TFC was only able to find the back of the net once has to be a disappointment. Instead of celebrating a 1-0 win, the Reds will be wondering why the scoreline didn’t reflect their dominance.

“I think we created a lot of chances,” said Preki, the TFC coach. “I’m disappointed that we didn’t get a second goal.”

Throughout the first half, the Motagua back line was cut open by long passes through the heart of the defence. The goal was just as much a product of awful defending as it was attacking ingenuity on the part of the Reds. Only one defender stayed at home as Dwayne De Rosario ran towards the Motagua goal, and then slid the ball to a wide open Chad Barrett to finish.

De Rosario and Julian de Guzman made a series of passes that split the defenders. O’Brian White, Barrett and de Guzman all had chances to put Toronto FC two or three goals up before the halftime break.

Still, the Reds will travel to Honduras with the slimmest of leads.

“It’s not the best feeling, but we will take it,” Barrett said,

In the 2008-09 quarterfinals, the Montreal Impact beat Mexican side Santos Laguna 2-0 at Olympic Stadium; the Impact scored two road goals in Mexico in the second leg, but allowed two goals after the 90-minute mark, and was eliminated thanks to a 5-2 loss in leg two.

Lesson from Impact

Yes, Santos is a gargantuan compared to Motagua, but the lesson is there. A second leg can go wrong on a visiting team awfully fast. Montreal had a two-goal advantage and couldn’t hold it. Fatigue caught up with the Impact, and panic set in.

Toronto will be going to Honduras after playing in Kansas City on Saturday. Preki was able to keep Mista on the bench until the 60-minute mark, and was able to give Barrett and striker Maicon Santos just 45 minutes each. But fatigue will be an issue

At halftime, Motagua coach Ramon Maradiaga pulled striker Charles Cordoba and former Red Amado Guevara off the pitch. He pulled more men back to protect the fragile backline. With 15 minutes left, he installed another defender, Milton Reyes, to shore up the back.

After all, a 1-0 deficit is in no way a disaster. A 3-0 or 4-0 loss is.

Maradiaga said he made the changes because the two players he brought off were playing at the “lowest level” of any of the 11 men who started the game.

“In no way were we happy with the result,” said Maradiaga. “We brought the subs in to give the team a little more speed.”

Yes, he did take off underachievers. But, instead of bringing in forwards for forwards, he brought in defenders.

Still, even with Motagua pulling more men back, the Reds got chances. Maicon Santos got behind defenders, but the ball bounced off his shin and away from him. De Guzman, De Rosario and Jacob Peterson all sent shots into the stands.

If Motagua is a much tougher team at home than it was on the road, if it works the rust out of its game, the Reds may not celebrate the one goal they scored. Instead, TFC may rue all of the clear chances it missed.

“I can’t say it’s an ideal result,” TFC defender Adrian Cann said. “But this is not an ideal world.”

steven.sandor@sunmedia.ca


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