TFC set to face Panama squad

RYAN WOLSTAT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:20 PM ET

One of Toronto FC’s biggest all-time victories will become a lot less meaningful if the club cannot come up with at least a point Tuesday night in La Chorerra, Panama against Arabe Unido.

Having shocked Mexican standout Cruz Azul 2-1 at BMO Field last week, the Reds can keep themselves in good shape in their CONCACAF Champions League group with another positive result.

Otherwise, things could get dicey with two more road games looming before the club returns home to face Real Salt Lake and Arabe Unido.

TFC is tied with Real Salt Lake for first in Group A after a game. To keep that lofty perch, the team must banish all thoughts of Saturday’s humiliating 4-1 loss to the New York Red Bulls.

“Different tournament, different time zone, we’ve got to get our minds in the right place, get down to Panama and take care of business,” said defender Nick Garcia in the locker room following the New York debacle.

While not considered as strong as Cruz Azul, the home team has some talent.

Last year’s edition shocked eventual champ Pachuca 4-1 at home and made it into the group stage.

A week ago, RSL prevailed 2-1 in Salt Lake City on a penalty kick in extra time. Most opponents get thumped when they make the trip to Utah to face the defending Major League Soccer champion.

Instead, Arabe Unido, tried to thump — and stomp — on the MLS outfit, picking up a pair of red cards in a shameful display that was equal parts cleating and diving.

That will cost the side red-carded defenders Nahil Carroll and Andres Santamaria. TFC must capitalize on a weakened backend as it did when Cruz Azul rested a number of defenders in the first half last week.

Arabe Unido also will have to be on its best behaviour as keeper Jose Calderon — not that one Raptor fans — striker Fidel Caesar and midfielders Jose Justavino and Armando Cooper carry yellow cards.

Keeping close watch

The referees will be keeping a close eye on the proceedings and any extra-curricular nonsense could see the Panamanians down to 10 men for the second week in a row.

Though a home league date with RSL is on tap for Saturday, TFC should go all out for this contest. Chad Barrett’s health is a question mark after he tweaked his hamstring Saturday, but if he feels good, Barrett and Mista — who has made up with coach Preki — should be the starters up front.

With Julian de Guzman returning from suspension and defender Nana Attakora aiming to make up for a poor effort last time out as well knowing he will have Saturday off against RSL because of suspension, TFC has no excuse not to try to take it to Arabe Unido. Three points would be massive. Especially since few expect TFC to be able to pull out a win either in Salt Lake or Mexico in the fall.

Opportunity must be seized now if the Reds don’t want to waste their brilliant effort against Cruz Azul. It won’t be easy, but it will be a lot easier than what is to come in this challenging tournament.


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