On Tuesday, Toronto FC travelled to Mexico City to face off against Club América in the Estadio Azteca, with a 3-1 lead from the first leg. Toronto FC clinched a crucial 1-1 draw to advance into the finals of the CONCACAF with a 4-2 aggregate win.
Past one Mexican giant, and into another: The Reds are set to face C.D. Guadalajara (Chivas) next week at BMO field. This will be the first time Toronto has made it to the CONCACAF finals, coming off the back of their first domestic treble in 2017.
With Toronto FC easing through the CONCACAF Champions League, it’s easy to forget how far the club, and MLS competition, has come in recent years.
Former Italy Coach Antonio Conte attracted much criticism in 2016 when he snubbed Toronto FC and MLS star Sebastian Giovinco for the 2016 Italian Euros squad, citing the quality (or lack thereof) of the MLS as the main reason for the omission.
That sentiment was shared by his successor, Giampiero Ventura, who noted that the MLS “is a league that does not count for much.”
The label of “retirement league” has been associated with the MLS since its creation, with the likes of David Beckham and Steven Gerrard arriving past their peaks to the developing U.S. soccer scene.
Both Toronto FC and the MLS have come a long way. The league has become much more competitive, capable of attracting young players from abroad, with many making breakthroughs with their respective national teams.
As for the quality of the MLS inhibiting players’ chances of being picked for their national team, TSN soccer analyst Terry Dunfield says, “I believe it’s much less of an issue in recent years.”
In the most recent transfer window, Toronto FC has brought in 24-year-old Ager Aketxe from Athletic Bilbao, a promising young player in the prime of his career moving from one of Spain’s more competitive clubs.
With Jonathan Osorio’s goal against Club América Tuesday night, he has been the club’s most consistent player at the CONCACAF, scoring a goal in each round of the Champions League.
His teammate Tosaint Ricketts is the joint fourth-top scorer for the Canadian Men’s national soccer team, with 16 goals for his country as of 2018.
This Toronto FC is not the same one that set the record for most consecutive losses back in 2012. As the Reds host Chivas next week for the first leg of the CONCACAF final, they are certainly not a team to be underestimated.