By Dylan Butler
With its hopes of qualifying for in the Major League Soccer playoffs dashed once more -- the only thing Toronto FC has left to play for this season is the CONCACAF Champions League - again.
But if the Canadians have any chance of returning to the quarterfinals - and the semifinals, they will need to beat Aguila at Estadio Cuscatlán Tuesday night.
Toronto FC heads to El Salvador, though, bruised and battered.
All three of the club's high-salaried "designated players" - Danny Koevermans (knee), Torsten Frings (hip) and Eric Hassil (ankle) - are out and it appears now so too is defender Richard Eckersley, who suffered a possible concussion in a 4-2 loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy Saturday at The Home Depot Center.
"We just can't get a break at the present moment," frustrated Toronto FC coach Paul Mariner told MLSsoccer.com. "Eckersley goes off, hopefully it's not a concussion, but we're extra careful with that now…We've got Hassli laid up at home, and the other DPs are out, so we've got our backs against the wall to say the least. But we've still got some fight in us."
Toronto FC routed Aguila in the first meeting between the clubs, 5-1 at BMO Field on August 1. Winless in three matches, Aguila closes out its Group 1 schedule Tuesday, while TFC heads to Torreon for what it hopes will be a showdown with Santos Laguna for the Group 1 title on October 24
Santos sits atop the group with nine points from three matches, six ahead of Toronto FC in second. Having lost 3-1 at home to Santos, Toronto needs to beat Aguila and then win in Torreon by more than two goals to reach the knockout round for a second time.
In Group 2, Herediano and Real Salt Lake both have six points, but Herediano has played one less match and will take on Tauro Tuesday night at Estadio Eladio Rosabal Cordero.
Herediano defeated Tauro 1-0 in Panama City on August 30 with Waylon Francis scoring the lone goal in the 48th minute.
The Costa Ricans close out group play October 23 against Real Salt Lake in Sandy, Utah, while Tauro, winless in three matches, ends its campaign in Costa Rica Tuesday.
Herediano coach Claudio Jara was hoping his team's Costa Rican league match against San Carlos on Sunday could be postponed ahead of the Champions League clash. However, his request was rejected and Herediano fell 1-0 to fall into second, three points behind Alajuelense.
Also on Tuesday, Monterrey hosts Municipal in a game that almost certainly will determine Group 7.
Monterrey, the two-time defending champion, needs only a draw to clinch its place in the final eight. But Municipal victory would move it three points atop the group and require Monterrey to win its Champions League finale against Chorrillo in Panama on August 23.
Since Monterrey won 1-0 in its first meeting with Municipal on a 79th-minute goal by Humberto Suazo -- and the first tiebreaker is head-to-head results, the Guatemalan side could clinch its spot with a victory by two goals or more.
Monterrey limps into the match without Jesus Zavala, who tore a ligament in his left knee over a week ago and will be out for at least three months; Aldo de Nigris, who will miss three weeks with a left adductor injury; and Humberto Suazo.
Even without the two regulars, Monterrey rallied to defeat Queretaro 3-2 on Saturday to move into third place in the Mexican Apertura. Suazo suffered a strained right thigh and in the match, the club said, and will be out five-to-six weeks.
"Today, despite the absences, the team played well. This gives you the peace of mind of having a deep squad. Also despite the loss of Humberto, the team was able to score goals," Monterrey coach Victor Manuel Vucetich told Univision.
Municipal enters the match having scored only three goals in its past six matches, including a 2-0 loss to fellow Champions League participant Xelaju on Saturday.
This is Municipal's fourth trip to the Champions League in five years, but it has never advanced past the Group Stage.