Action from the CONCACAF Champions League final, first leg match between Toluca and host Cruz Azul (blue jersey) on April 15, 2014, in Mexico City. (Photo: Mexsport)
MEXICO CITY – After a scintillating first-leg that ended goalless, the 2013-14 CONCACAF Champions League final comes down to one game as Cruz Azul and host Toluca – the first- and second-place teams, respectively, in LIga MX -- clash at the Estadio Nemesio Diez on Wednesday.
The winner will capture its first-ever CCL title and advance to the FIFA Club World Cup in Morocco this December.
One of the big stories to emerge ahead of the curtain closer is that the suspension of Cruz Azul goalkeeper Jesus Corona has been reduced to an already-served single game by the CONCACAF Appeals Committee.
This means that the Mexico international is once again eligible for selection after Guillermo Allison stepped in admirably in the series opener last week.
The 23-year-old Allison also started in La Maquina’s 5-1 Liga MX setback to Morelia on Friday. In that game, head coach Luis Fernando Tena rested many of his starters.
“It bothers me to lose and it bothers me to lose by this score,” Tena said, trying to put the defeat into perspective. “I knew that it was going to be a difficult game. There are players from Liga de Ascenso.”
Toluca, which is unbeaten in its last four CCL home games, also went with an alternative lineup for its Mexican Clausura match and suffered a 1-0 loss at Atlas on Saturday.
“Obviously I do not like losing,” said head coach Jose Cardozo, who won the 2003 CONCACAF Champions Cup with Toluca as a player. “Whoever plays, we must find a way to win, but the play of the young players showed that they left everything on the field. The opponent played with everything to its full potential without much scoring difference because I find that the opponent had only two or three opportunities around the goal and we also had two or three. I think their experience and game management weighed a little more.”
The Red Devils are two points behind league-leading Cruz Azul, but their focus is squarely on the second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League final.
“Wednesday is first, to focus myself on what it is going to be Wednesday,” Cardozo expressed. “The group is strong, wants to leave as a champion. It is with an enormous illusion of doing a good game before a difficult, complicated rival, who also wants to go out as a champion. Therefore, we have to be very intelligent, administer well, to be much more aggressive at home and to try to look for the goal that gives us the possibility of handling the game.
“The target is to go out as a champion.”
Cruz Azul has won a record-equaling five CONCACAF club titles, but none since 1997.