|Toronto FC's Torsten Frings (rear) battles with the Houston Dynamo's Luiz Camargo during the second half of their MLS soccer match in Toronto last week. The Reds begin CONCACAF Champions League action tonight against El Salvador's Aguila. (REUTERS)
TORONTO - Paul Mariner was asked Tuesday what he knows about Salvadorian side C.D. Aguila, the Central American side TFC meets in Wednesday night’s Champions League opener at BMO Field.
“It’s right here,” TFC’s head coach said, pulling papers out of his pocket. “The scout who (scouted) for us lives in Mexico City so he had to travel and the Internet situation wasn’t fantastic so we got the report this morning.”
Entering its first of four group games within CONCACAF’s reconfigured tournament, after TFC progressed to the final four last time around, Mariner said his side will have to be better than it was on the weekend if it is to pick up a crucial three points with a home date against Mexican giants Santos Laguna looming.
“We weren’t particularly pleased with ourselves,” Mariner said of TFC’s lopsided league loss to Houston on the weekend. “I wasn’t pleased with that performance and the players weren’t pleased with it.”
After watching Toronto’s toothless attack held goalless against the Dynamo on the weekend, based on Tuesday’s training, Mariner could make as many as two changes up front ahead of what’s likely a must-win match.
Following a rather ineffective league debut, Quincy Amarikwa could make way for Andrew Wiedeman, who will likely play wide left with Luis Silva pairing with Ryan Johnson up top.
The Silva-Johnson combination worked well during Toronto’s three-game winning streak last month and could help foster a more creative attack that was dearly missing against Houston, especially with Eric Hassli a potential scratch for a second straight fixture.
“It’s obviously tempting to play (Hassli) but you’ve got to look longer term,” Mariner said of Danny Koevermans’ replacement. “If he goes and re-injures himself then we’ll kick ourselves.”
Despite missing first-team training for the second week in a row, Hassli told reporters Tuesday he has recovered from an ankle injury sustained three weeks ago while playing with the Vancouver Whitecaps in Chicago.
As for everyone else?
“No rest for anybody,” said Mariner, when asked if he’s looking ahead to Saturday’s league match against the Chicago Fire. “Straight at it.”
Sitting in fourth place three matches into the Salvadorian domestic season, Aguila travels to BMO Field following a 3-0 thrashing of Municipal on the weekend.
Although widely picked to finish last in a group alongside the Reds and last year’s finalist, Santos Laguna, TFC was unfortunate to draw Aguila, one of the more talented clubs Toronto could have drawn from Pot C.
“They play somewhat of a two markers and a sweeper situation with two protecting in front,” Mariner said of what he expects from the visitors.
“It’s going to be difficult to penetrate them but I think we have the pace on the outside to get through.”
He’ll finish reading up on the club from San Miguel, El Salvador tonight.
“Quick read up ... I’m looking at some footage,” he said. “We’re OK to go.”
Toronto FC announced Tuesday the club has signed Bermudian goalkeeper Freddy Hall.
“I’ve known Freddy for about two or three years,” Mariner said. “I didn’t think if Milos (Kocic) went down it would be fair to put Quillan Roberts in. I didn’t want to ruin him.”
But with four goalkeepers — Stefan Frei is scheduled to return from an ankle injury in October — one of the club’s netminders could be on the outside looking in come 2013.
“I’ll definitely go three ’keepers,” Mariner said. “ We’re renegotiating certain players and I think we need to do something with Quillan.
“Personally, I’d like to get him out on loan.”
Mariner told a group of reporters Tuesday that he “already has plans for (Frei) at the end of this season,” meaning the Reds will likely send their former No. 1 on a training stint this winter like the one he completed with Liverpool ahead of this year.
Where that leaves Kocic in 2013 is anyone’s best guess.