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Toronto FC faces its toughest test yet in Azteca vs. America

Toronto FC faces its toughest test yet in Azteca vs. America
From ESPN - April 9, 2018

MEXICO CITY -- Toronto FC may be taking a healthy 3-1 lead into Estadio Azteca for the second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League semifinal against Club America but the Major League Soccer side from Canada should be under no illusion as to the size of the task awaiting it in Mexico City.

Toronto run in the CCL so far this season has been mightily impressive and the fact that the team traveled down to Pachuca -- at a higher altitude than Mexico City -- as early as last Thursday shows both the planning and the seriousness that has defined TFC in the competition to date. But there is no denying the importance of this game to Club America, who is looking to win its eighth CONCACAF continental title.

Las Aguilas did not have the luxury of resting this past weekend like Toronto, but Miguel Herrera's side knows what is at stake. Losing or going out of this competition inside the spiritual home of Mexican soccer to a MLS side would be an embarrassment for Club America. It would be the talk of the many sports shows each night on Mexican television and the word "fracaso" ("failure") would be flying around.

Las Aguilas are doing everything possible to stop that from happening, both on and off the field. The club launched a promotion inviting fans to make their presence felt on Tuesday using the hashtag "everyone to the Azteca," demanding in the video that "this is our house, respect it" and that fans "show why we are the greatest."

Herrera certainly believes.

"We did not play well [in the first leg]," said Herrera in an interview with Fox Sports. "Toronto is a clinical team [with] two talented players upfront who did their job.

"It was difficult for us to adapt to the cold and the pitch," he added. "We had chances to close the gap. We can turn it around at home."

Fans that attended Las Aguilas' last home Liga MX match against Cruz Azul will enter the Azteca for free and will produce a tifo for when the teams come out into the stadium. The 9 p.m. kickoff (local time) is also helpful for people after work, and the historic Azteca should not be too far off capacity.

In short, America is attempting to create an atmosphere to intimidate Toronto in a game that really does not need any additional spice.

The half-time brawl in the first leg and the he-said-she-said comments after has brought an extra edge to the proceedings and both teams were fined by CONCACAF. Herrera accused police in Toronto of hitting his players and even suggested that MLS is doing things "under the table" to bring in players like Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

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