Trash-talking Herculez haunts TFC

Herculez Gomez (left). (HENRY ROMERO/Reuters file photo)

Herculez Gomez (left). (HENRY ROMERO/Reuters file photo)

KURTIS LARSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:00 AM ET

TORONTO - The answer’s no, Herculez — especially after what you said during Toronto FC’s improbable Champions League semifinal run last time around.

“Just landed in Toronto,” the Santos Laguna attacker smugly tweeted over the weekend. “Did ya miss me?”

Apparently the U.S. international is hoping to once again get under Toronto FC’s skin before tonight’s decisive Champions League tilt at BMO Field — one that ended in a bench-clearing scuffle the last time the Reds and Los Guererros hooked up in Toronto.

During the competition’s semifinal in March, the Mexican giants played Toronto to a 1-1 draw at BMO Field before putting a hurting on TFC during the return leg in Mexico, a match that was preceded by a bit of trash talk.

“Can you imagine what we can do to Toronto (at home),” Gomez said before the second leg. “Just wait (until we) are in Torreon.”

He backed it up.

LAST TIME AROUND

The man TFC supporters vilified the entire week leading up to the trouncing in Torreon scored three times during the home-and-away semifinal in March, making good on his words and putting the Reds out of the competition.

“Gomez up front was a thorn last year against us. He’s a very, very good player,” Mariner said. “They’ve been together a long time and they’ve got some very experienced international players who have played an enormous number of games at a high level.”

Gomez, who suited up for the U.S. at the 2010 World Cup, is just one of many experienced internationals who could feature for the 2012 Clausura champions this evening.

Santos also employs Panamanian international Felipe Baloy, who some consider to be the best centre back in CONCACAF at the moment, and Oribe Peralta, a gold medal-winning Mexican forward who scored four goals at the most recent Games in London.

Add to that Colombian winger Carlos Quintero tearing up the wing and it goes without saying that the visitors are going to get their fair share of chances.

“Every single game is a Cup final for us,” said Mariner, when asked if tonight’s match takes the place of the MLS playoffs. “Every single game we want to show people what we can do … These guys have got an abundance of great players — guys coming out of the Olympics.”

After resting a number of starters — Ashtone Morgan, Eric Hassli and Torsten Frings — during a 1-1 draw in Houston on Saturday, without fully giving away his lineup, Mariner said he expects to bring his captain back into the side to combat Santos’ experience.

Given CONCACAF’s latest Champions League format, which will see just a single team emerge from each of eight three-team groups, Toronto faces a near must-win if it hopes to avoid needing a win in Mexico on the last day of group play.

“We’ve got to win,” Mariner said before repeating himself. “We’ve got to win here, we’ve got to try and pick points up (in El Salvador) because I’m sure that they’ll pick points up.”

Currently even on three points with Santos, the Reds play away to Aguila — the club it easily dispatched 5-1 earlier this month — on Sept. 15 before finishing group play on Oct. 24 at Torreon’s Estadio Corona, the venue that hosted TFC’s 6-2 laugher earlier this season.

“It’s just between the two of us,” Mariner said of Toronto’s group. “We’ll be giving a good account of ourselves (tonight). We respect (Santos), but we’re not going to give them too much respect.”


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