“(Wednesday) will be the first real competitive game and we’re all excited to show what we can do,” said keeper Stefan Frei.
“Obviously the pressure increases a little bit because now the games really matter, I think we’re anxious to prove what we can do.”
Before its league schedule even commences, TFC will meet the Los Angeles Galaxy in the quarterfinal of the CONCACAF Champions League competition.
It is a tricky way to start a season, and one few players would prefer, but it might just give the Reds an edge being able to take on the defending MLS Cup winner (and two-time defending regular season champions) at this point.
“I feel like it’s too soon, but at the same time, this is what we’re handed and it’s exciting and also good that for our first game we can play a team like L.A. who might not be in their full stride also,” said forward Ryan Johnson, who will be counted on to provide offence.
“This is a good time to catch them, first game of the season, we can definitely make a name for ourselves here and hopefully get the win.”
Indeed, the Galaxy had a busy pre-season, but there wasn’t a lot of opportunities to get the star-laden lineup out at the same time — Landon Donovan is just returning from a bout with bronchitis — and that could play in Toronto’s favour.
Not that Toronto is taking anything for granted.
“They’re a good side, no doubt,” said Frei.
“With L.A. they’re always consistent, they’re always good.
“(David) Beckham is a huge part of their equation, his service, whether it be standing situations on the field or corners or whatnot are huge. We did some set pieces yesterday to make sure we’re ready for it.”
In Beckham, Donovan, Robbie Keane, Juninho and Edson Buddle, Los Angeles boasts unmatched offensive talent. But, according to Johnson, the familiarity on defence has been just as crucial to that squad’s success.
“They play so many games with each other. That backline they’ve probably had over 50 games playing together. When you have that kind of continuity it’s tough to break that down,” Johnson said.
However, TFC will get another break in that regard since central defender Omar Gonzalez, arguably the premier performer at his position in the league, is out long-term. As well, ex-Red Todd Dunivant is not in top form.
Still, head coach Aron Winter knows his side is not favoured, but doesn’t mind.
“Yeah, I can understand that we’re underdogs when you’re going to compare,” Winter said.
“L.A. has existed for longer years, play in MLS Cup finals, champion from last season, it’s normal.”
What isn’t normal is a game of this magnitude right off of the bat.
But that’s the reality for both sides.
They will meet again next week in California, with a trip to the semifinals of the competition on the line.