CCL Post mortem: What will be Toronto's legacy be after coming up short?
April 26, 2018
So here are a few thoughts on the final and the tournament
Injuries doomed Toronto
The fact that Toronto forced a shootout was remarkable given the lineup that Greg Vanney was forced to field. A deficit heading into Mexico is normally a death sentence in this tournament even with a healthy team. But Toronto was crushed.
TFC have no healthy CB’s for tonight’s CCL final.— Kristian Jack (@KristianJack) April 26, 2018
Drew Moor suffered a quad strain training here on Monday joining Mavinga (hamstring), Hagglund (hamstring), Hernandez (match fitness) & Zavaleta (quad) who is a sub & maybe used late if needed. VDW & Bradley to play there tonight.
On top of this, Victor Vazquez only recently returned to health and did not looked particularly sharp. Jozy Altidore, once again, suffered another injury during a big game. Despite this and conceding the opening goal, Toronto forced penalties.
That makes this loss even more frustrating. The “what-ifs” will always linger. Throughout this entire tournament, Toronto never got to utilize its best XI.
It’s been a tough year for Bradley and with the U.S. national team captain missing the decisive penalty in the shootout, it set twitter into a rash of negative hot takes.
When looking at this tournament outside of the context of the national team, that is extremely unfortunate. Bradley played an instrumental role in helping Toronto get past two of the toughest non-European teams in the world en route to the final. Then in the second leg of the final, he had to adjust and play in a completely different position at central defense to give his team a chance to win.
It was a poor penalty but Bradley was one of the best players in the CONCACAF Champions League without question.
Was this tournament successful for MLS?
How will this tournament be remembered for MLS teams? It will depend on who you ask.
Some will say that this was good for MLS. After all, MLS teams eliminated Club America, Tigres, and Club Tijuana in one tournament. That is unprecedented. The Red Bulls lost to Chivas despite having a 20-1 shot advantage in the second leg. Toronto was only topped in a shootout and was never at 100%.
Others, however, will say that MLS teams still can’t seal the deal against its Mexican counterparts.
The truth is somewhere in between. Even those who point out Liga MX’s superiority in the tournament, it is impossible to argue that the gap between the two leagues has never been smaller. A Liga MX team won but there was never any dominant play from Liga MX along the way. The fact that both Tigres and Club America were ousted by the MLS champion cannot be ignored.
In years past, Liga MX would typically advance without much problem and the times MLS teams were able to pull upsets were few and far between. Right now its tough to make sweeping generalizations about overal quality of leagues when penalties were the deciding factor.
It is easy to see an MLS team winning this tournament in the years ahead but Toronto was a lost opportunity in another regard. Likely contenders in the future such as New York City FC or Atlanta United, are built with a huge continent of foreign players. On the other hand, Toronto FC had Sebastian Giovinco but it also had most of its core consisting of American and Canadian players. It seems unlikely that future CONCACAF Champions League entrants from MLS will have such a high level of domestic players.