From the outset, TFC looked like a team prepared to play 90 minutes in its own half.
Mission accomplished: as Toronto held off the Cruz Azul attack in a surprising 0-0 draw with the CONCACAF Champions League Group A leader at Estadio Azul in Mexico City on Tuesday night.
Toronto fielded a lineup in that was significantly different than the one featured in a 2-1 win against the Houston Dynamo three nights earlier.
The Reds made seven changes to the squad of 11 who played against the Dynamo, with an eye suspiciously looking ahead to a crucial weekend MLS match up with San Jose at BMO Field.
Goalkeeper Stefan Frei and captain Dwayne De Rosario were among the regulars on the bench as the game started.
Injuries change the game plan
A handful of minutes into the game, the game plan head coach Nick Dasovic drew up was in the trash bin.
De Rosario was drawn in as a substitute about 30 minutes in as an ankle injury to Joseph Nane in the 9th minute and then his replacement, Martin Saric in the 25th minute, forced Dasovic’s hand.
However, TFC dug in and defended from beginning to end in front of goalkeeper Jon Conway.
Cruz Azul features different line up
Cruz Azul (2-1-1) also made a number of changes from the squad that won its fifth straight domestic game last weekend but, nonetheless, they dominated from the opening whistle.
They outshot the Reds 27-4 on the night but couldn’t navigate their way through the tough TFC (1-1-2) defensive posture.
Conway was busy with eight saves but wasn’t called upon to make any highlight reel stops as Toronto clogged the middle and didn’t allow many chances in close.
Orozco held scoreless in two against Toronto
Champions League goal scoring leader Javier Orozco has 10 goals in the competition but was held to one quality chance in the 49th minute when he sent an unmarked header over the crossbar from the edge of the six-yard box. He has no goals in a pair of games against the Reds.
In contrast, Cruz Azul keeper Yosqart Gutierrez was rooted to his goal-line, as Toronto didn’t record a shot on net.
Fausto Pinto picked up a couple yellow cards, the last with 10 minutes remaining, reducing the home side to 10 men, ensuring TFC the crucial single point.
The match was a testy affair with 10 yellow cards handed out by Guatamalan referee Juan Carlos Guerra. Toronto had six of them.
With the draw TFC, vastly improves its chances of progressing to the quarter-finals of the CONCACAF Champions League, something that seemed far-fetched after last Wednesday’s 4-1 dismantling at the hands of Real Salt Lake.
Toronto finishes the group stage of the competition with home games against Salt Lake (2-0-1) next Tuesday and Arabe Unido (1-2-0) on Oct. 19.