Motagua's theatrics concern TFC

STEVEN SANDOR, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:15 PM ET

Georgie Welcome, CD Motagua’s top striker, will be one of the biggest men on the field when his club hosts Toronto FC Tuesday in the second leg of their CONCACAF Champions League qualifier.

At 6-foot-3, Welcome towers over the Toronto FC defenders.

But, if the first leg at BMO Field was any indication, he’ll go down with the slightest of contact. There were plenty of dives in the first leg, but Welcome was the most noticeable just because it was so ridiculous for such a large man to go down when going against much smaller players.

“Sometimes they go down with no contact at all,” said Toronto FC central defender Adrian Cann.

Good on regular MLS referee Terry Vaughn to spot the pratfalls and not allow himself to be fooled by the shenanigans that were on offer in the first game of the series.

But things change in Central America. As anyone who has watched Canadian national team games will know, dives often lead to free kicks and penalties. When it comes to diving, all bets are off.

So, protecting a 1-0 lead when the teams meet in Tegucigalpa on Tuesday, the Reds will need to make sure they don’t put themselves in a position where the referee can be intimidated or fooled into giving Motagua a spot kick.

Cann admitted he will have to adjust his playing style for the second leg in Honduras.

He said the defenders will have to try and do two different things at once. They will try and not make any contact, without giving up too much space. They can't afford to go shoulder-to-shoulder, or to not leave any daylight between defender and attacker. Those tactics play into the dive — even though they are prime examples of the proper way to defend. Cann knows he and his mates will have to let the ref see some separation between the Motagua attackers and TFC defenders, leaving no doubt that there was no illegal contact.

“No contact whatsoever,” said Cann of the game plan. Which, for him, is difficult.

“I am a physical player.”

It’s not just hard for Cann; it’s hard for a team like TFC, which Preki insists play a nasty game. Taking tackling and shoulder-to-shoulder play away from the Reds is like asking a team to play a game without a ball.

There’s no honest soccer fan who likes this approach; but diving and gamesmanship has always been a dark side of the game in CONCACAF. And, judging by the way Motagua players threw themselves to the turf in the hostile BMO Field environment, you have to assume they’ll rededicate themselves to the task when they are in front of their own fans.

Preki left his two top scorers, Chad Barrett and Dwayne De Rosario, on the bench for 57 minutes of Saturday's 1-0 loss at Kansas City. With arguably the biggest game Toronto FC will play so far in its history set for Tuesday, Preki knows those two could be the key for the Reds.

In 2008-09, when the Montreal Impact made its run to the quarter-finals, picking up a series of clutch results, then-coach John Limniatis had his team attack the opposition early rather than sit back, which is what teams from Canada and the U.S. normally do when they get to hostile Central American environments. The Impact got a series of vital road goals early in games, which helped it move on.

If TFC could get a goal early, it would radically change the tie. Motagua would need to score three to win, rather than just needing one to even the aggregate-goal series.

But, as it stands, the Reds will face a Motagua team that has had a week more to gel — the Honduran league doesn't begin until next week, so Motagua is shaking off the ruse as it goes. At home, Amado Guevara and co. promise to be a lot harder to handle.

“The team was a little bit nervous (in the first leg),” Motagua coach Ramon Maradiaga said.


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