TOLUCA, Mexico -- The Jose Cardozo-era at Toluca has yielded varied results in the first three rounds of the 2013 Mexican Apertura. Under the guidance of the former Diablos Rojos legend, who was named head coach in May, the 10-time champion is 1-1-1. It has been shutout twice, including a goalless draw at home against Pumas on Wednesday.
Things don’t get much easier as a Saturday trip to the Estadio Tecnologico to face three-time CONCACAF Champions League winner Monterrey approaches.
“Right now any opponent is strong in Mexican soccer, but obviously games have been close every time we go to Tecnologico and this time it will not be an exception,” said striker Isaac Brizuela. “Monterrey comes from less to more and it will be a very close match, but with arrivals from both teams, either team could take the win.”
The last time the two sides met in league play was April 7, with Toluca posting a 1-0 road win, thanks to a 71st minute goal by Juan Carlos Cacho.
Monterrey, meanwhile, has struggled in Liga MX, winless in its first three matches. The Rayados opened the season with a 1-0 loss at Cruz Azul and played Puebla to a 1-1 draw at home. On Wednesday, Monterrey had a pair of two-goal leads at Queretaro, before conceding two goals in a two-minute span in the second half to settle for a 3-3 draw.
“I think it hurts to stay in the moment, but football has many rematches and on this day [they] probably already talked about what happened there will be another meeting Saturday,” said Brizuela, who returns to the club after a one-year loan to Atlas. “You want to remove the thorn of the draw, which will not be easy. We have to prepare well.”
Success Saturday at Monterrey is important because Toluca will open its CONCACAF Champions League slate against Trinidad & Tobago’s Caledonia AIA on Tuesday at the Estadio Nemesio Diez.
Toluca was drawn into Group 6, which also features Guatemalan powerhouse Comunicaciones.
This is Toluca’s third Champions League journey and in each of its previous two appearances, the club was knocked out by the eventual champions – Pachuca in the 2009-10 semifinals and Monterrey in the 2010-11 quarterfinals.
Toluca qualified for the Champions League by finishing as runner-up to Club Tijuana in the 2012 Mexican Apertura.
“These are goals we set personally and in the group, returning to a league that Toluca deserves [to be in],” Brizuela added. “As for the two tournaments, I think we have the team for those two tournaments, a competitive squad and a coach thinking of doing the alignments. But we are ready physically.”