CONCACAF Champions League Group Stage Matchday 2: FC Dallas at Toronto FC

TORONTO, CANADA - JULY 20: Mikael Yourassowsky #19 of Toronto FC battles for the ball with Ricardo Villar #11 of FC Dallas during MLS action at BMO Field July 20, 2011 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)

It's an interesting conundrum Schellas Hyndman and FC Dallas face tonight as they head north of the border to take on Toronto FC in their second Champions League group stage game. Buoyed by their win in Mexico City last week, this game suddenly has a lot less meaning for Dallas. They say 10 points is generally the aim to advance from a group stage which presents FC Dallas with a decision. Should they play the starters tonight, go for all three points in a place where they've already won this season, thus nearly guaranteeing group stage passage, or play the reserves tonight in advance of a tough MLS game on Saturday and crucial US Open Cup semifinal on Tuesday? 

From what I've heard, Schellas is choosing to go the starters route, sending most of the main guys up to Toronto in search of three points. A reminder, the game is on Fox Soccer at 7PM central time. 

Game notes

Scoreless Streak FCD still has yet to allow a goal in their three Champions League games thus far. They're the first team to post a shutout in their first three Champions League games though the defense will be seriously tested tonight because....

Paper thin No Zach Loyd tonight and obviously no George John means the FCD backline will will be severely tested. Look for Jackson at right back and Warshaw at center back tonight for Dallas, though Jack Stewart could be given a go as well. 

Weather a factor There are supposed to be tornado and severe thunderstorm watches tonight in Toronto which could majorly affect the game. 

Luna's big chance? Could tonight be another chance for Ruben Luna to impress? With Maicon not eligible and Marvin Chavez looking noticeably gassed on Saturday, perhaps Luna gets a chance up top for Dallas tonight. 

Toronto Improving Since almost completely rehauling the team in the middle of the season, Toronto FC has been a much improved side. They've lost just one out of their last seven competitions(a 2-0 loss to Chicago on Sunday), and also won on the road at Tauro last week. However they've only pitched one shutout in that time so goals will be very possible tonight. 

Keep reading for keys to the game, links, and prediction

Keys to the game

Attack, attack, attack Right now for Dallas the best defense is going to be a good offense. It could be a hodgepodge group at the back tonight so for Dallas I would focus on keeping the ball in the Toronto end. The team, even in their weakened state, should be able to boss possession and create lots of chances.

Cruz missile I want to see what Daniel Cruz is made of tonight. He let the team down on Saturday, even if the call was bogus, and I would anticipate he'll get a chance to redeem himself tonight. We haven't seen a lot offensively yet from the guy who was an offensive force in Belgium so tonight I want to see him break out in a big way. 

Links

Robert Casner has a game preview for the FCD website

For us to find success in CONCACAF, I think it's huge because it puts us at more of an international window," said Hyndman, the 2010 MLS Coach of the Year. "It’s beating Pumas — the first [MLS] team to ever [win in Mexico] — or playing in Panama or getting to the next phase. This is an important game for us with Toronto."

John Molinaro writes for the CBC that Toronto faces a crucial Champions League test tonight

"It's probably one of the goals we set before the season even started — to be on the international stage and to do well," said de Guzman.

"Last year we made history by making the group stage. This year our goal is to make history by coming out of the group. The possibilities are very high with the result we got on the road in Panama, and now that we're home against Dallas, I think the guys are very motivated and determined to get the three points."

Duncan Fletcher at Waking The Red has a nice article up wondering if Toronto could be third time lucky against FCD tonight. He notes that for Toronto, there's really not a whole lot more to play for in the league so why not throw everything they've got at Dallas. 

Firmly out of the playoff picture, TFC have no such worries about juggling committments, so what kind of side will we see from them?  Eric Avila definitely won't be back, but Danny Koevermans might be, and hopefully, injuries permitting, Aron Winter puts the strongest possible side out there.

Matthew Scianitti writes that Andy Iro has been a huge part of Toronto's recent success. 

I knew it was going to take awhile," Iro said. "I’m fully confident in my physical abilities … I’m starting to get into the groove: my first touch, my first step and my overall power. Even though games are coming thick and fast, I’m starting to feel a little bit stronger."

 

Prediction

This is an extremely tough game to get a feel for tonight. Dallas has beaten Toronto twice this season, but TFC is playing some good ball right now and they're extremely motivated in Champions League play. It could be a sloppy game out there with the weather and I think each side gets a goal. It will be very interesting to see how Peri Marosevic plays tonight against his old side. A draw benefits both sides as Dallas has two home games upcoming to get to that 10 point plateau.

1-1 Draw

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