Reds face must-win battles

Torsten Frings back as a fifth defender will speak volumes as to how comfortable head coach Aron...

Torsten Frings back as a fifth defender will speak volumes as to how comfortable head coach Aron Winter is with his central defenders at this stage. (REUTERS/Mike Cassese)

KURTIS LARSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:37 AM ET

MARQUEE MATCHUPS

Juninho vs. Luis Silva

If there was any debate, the fact that Toronto's Eric Avila remains cup-tied for this match means the 23-year-old draft pick will likely be thrust into the starting 11 in his first game as a professional. It's one thing to perform under limited pressure at a pre-season tournament in Orlando. But it's a totally different beast in front of 45,000 with three of the league's best midfielders -- David Beckham, Landon Donovan and Juninho -- in front of you.

Juninho and Silva are similar players -- midfielders who are capable of collecting and producing cutting passes while always being a threat around the penalty area. The Galaxy's Brazilian has been in big games before. The same can't be said for Toronto's fourth-overall pick. Should Winter elect to play his coveted prospect as the team's No. 10 tonight, we'll see just how much quality the U.C.-Santa Barbara product has.

Aceval/Harden vs. Keane/Buddle

It's an untested central pairing against what's arguably the top forward tandem in the league. Irish international Robbie Keane enters tonight's quarterfinal match after heading to Aston Villa on loan over the winter. Toronto fans will recognize his partner, Edson Buddle, who will be looking to re-energize a career that sputtered during his excursion to the German second division.

Toronto's centre pairing has played no more than 180 competitive minutes together and weren't nearly as tested in the buildup as they will be tonight. While taking a lead into the return is important, keeping a clean sheet at home is vital. Dropping

Torsten Frings back as a fifth defender will speak volumes as to how comfortable head coach Aron Winter is with his central defenders at this stage.

TFC KEYS

1) WING PLAY

The Reds struggled in pre-season when they failed to introduce both Ashtone Morgan and Richard Eckersley into the attack. Should Winter elect to drop Torsten Frings deep, Toronto must cause a pair of serviceable, but not impenetrable, Galaxy fullbacks problems out wide. The Reds can't afford to become one-dimensional in the attacking third.

2) SAFETY FIRST

Andy Iro's gone and Danleigh Boreman is back in South Africa -- two players that accounted for a number of bad goals the Reds conceded in 2011. As we saw in pre-season, TFC's back four is still prone to giveaways and bad decisions. Toronto's back four must play close to mistake-free in the back third as the Galaxy has the quality to punish any lapses.

3) LIMIT RESTARTS

Yes, he's still one of the best in the world when it comes to free kicks and putting restarts into dangerous areas. Give David Beckham multiple chances around the box and you'll likely trail at some point in the match.

MATCH FACTS

-In the tournament's short history, MLS teams have met just once in the Champions League knockout phase. In last year's quarterfinals, Salt Lake easily got by Columbus before becoming the first MLS team to reach the competition's final, falling 3-2 to Mexico's Monterrey.

-With three MLS clubs in the bottom half of the eight-team bracket, at least one of the league's three remaining MLS clubs will feature in the Champions League semifinals. The winner of Toronto's series will take on either Mexico's Santos Laguna or the Seattle Sounders for a chance to play in the two-leg final.

-Both L.A. and TFC will have a chance to become just the second MLS team to ever reach the CONCACAF semifinals in the Cup's four-year history.

VITAL VENUE ADVANTAGE

Constructed on the campus of California State University, Dominguez Hills, the Galaxy's Home Depot Centre holds 27,000 for weekend fixtures.

But a previous agreement with the U.S. university will force the reigning MLS Champions to cap ticket sales for the return because the match is on a school night -- a rule that really should change if the region hopes to elevate the tournament's profile.

As the university demands its high number of commuters be given ample space to enter and exit the campus freely, the Galaxy will seat just 7,500 next Wednesday.

The silly clause could play into Toronto's hands should they hold the visitors at home.

BY THE NUMBERS

43

The total number of wins MLS clubs have earned from 110 CONCACAF Champions League (CCL) games since the tournament began in 2008. Seemingly low, 20 of those victories were secured during the competition's current edition -- substantial improvement seeing as the inaugural tournament saw MLS clubs collect just two wins.

8

The Reds have appeared in three of the four Champions League tournaments since 2008, registering eight wins through 18 matches. Matching the Montreal Impact's quarterfinal appearance in 2009, the Reds have a chance to become the only Canadian team to ever advance to the last four.

14,550

The approximate sum of Toronto's total kilometres in air travel since entering the qualification process 10 months ago. Tack on a couple more thousand when the Reds travel to L.A. for the second leg of the quarterfinal next Wednesday.

1

Although roughly 20 nations enter teams into the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) tournament, only one nation's clubs have ever won the CONCACAF Champions League -- Mexico's.

45,000

With seating capacity is just below 50,000 for Blue Jays games, the Rogers Centre will seat close to 45,000 during tonight's Champions League match. WrestleMania X8 drew 68,237 paid spectators to the the Skydome in 2002 -- a venue record that has stood for a decade.

260

The amount in dollars a $100 bet will earn you if the Reds upset the visiting Galaxy in tonight's opening leg.


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