Toronto, ON – Toronto FC should approach Saturday's MLS match against the Columbus Crew as CONCACAF Champions League game.
Toronto has been outscored 6-1 in a pair of league losses to start the season, but has been a different team in the CONCACAF tournament.
TFC advanced from a group that included FC Dallas, and shocked the Los Angeles Galaxy in the quarterfinals with a 4-3 aggregate win on the strength of a 2-1 win in L.A.
Toronto was the only MLS team to reach the semifinals, as Seattle Sounders FC exited in the quarterfinals against Mexico's Santos. This week, Toronto began its semifinal series against Santos with a 1-1 draw.
"We were really a team and I thought also that if we play like this, like a team, we play very well," TFC coach Aron Winter said.
"That's the big difference."
TFC (0-2-0) has lost its league matches 3-1 at Seattle Sounders FC, and 3-0 at home to the San Jose Earthquakes, and it played nothing like a "team" in those matches.
But even with midfield general Torsten Frings out against Santos, TFC held its own against the Mexican side. Although a result in Mexico will not be easy, it would be foolish to rule out Winter's side at this point.
Miguel Aceval scored for TFC to cancel out a Herculez Gomez goal for Santos.
Toronto didn't even start Joao Plata and Luis Silva, two rising stars, against Santos, because "we are trying to manage them because they are young," Winter said.
After the home loss to San Jose, the result was the perfect remedy for Toronto as it looks to this weekend's Eastern Conference game against Columbus (1-1-0) and the return leg against Santos.
"I think that this game was a good way to rebound from the difficult result that we endured last weekend and it is good motivation going in to Saturday's game against Columbus," Toronto midfielder Julian de Guzman said.
The first leg in Toronto ended with a confrontation between the clubs, but the Canadian side must focus on Columbus first.
Columbus has had mixed results after two matches, losing 2-0 at the Colorado Rapids in opening week before a 2-0 win over the Montreal Impact last week.
Toronto does not want to start the season with three straight losses, but with such an important game on the horizon, Columbus could be in position to secure three points at BMO Field this weekend.