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Toronto FC vs. Chivas: early predictions

CONCACAF Champions League
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Victor Vazquez only regular in doubt for Toronto's CCL first leg vs. Chivas

Will Chivas continue Mexico's CCL dominance, or will Toronto make history for MLS? Hercluez Gomez makes the case for both sides ahead of the final.
Herculez Gomez explains why Toronto FC have the edge on Chivas in the CCL final, and why the MLS champions could wrap it up in the first leg.
ESPN FC's Herc Gomez feels Toronto FC have all the tools to win the CONCACAF Champions League against Chivas Guadalajara.

TORONTO -- Toronto FC manager Greg Vanney says he's "more encouraged" about the physical state of his side heading into Tuesday's first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League against Chivas.

By the end of its semifinal series against Club America, TFC was down five key players, including forward Jozy Altidore, midfielder Victor Vazquez and defender Chris Mavinga, Justin Morrow and Gregory van der Wiel. But Vanney played a largely reserve side during last weekend's 2-0 league defeat to the Colorado Rapids and the extra time off has helped some players recover.

"There's some guys who a week ago who weren't quite ready who have trained more this week, and have the potential to be selected," Vanney said during Monday's press conference.

Inclement weather forced Toronto to practice indoors on Monday, and given the facility's artificial turf, Vasquez didn't train with the whole group. But Vanney indicated that the Spaniard will get his work in on a more forgiving surface and that he'll be assessed on Tuesday. The remaining players are available to play.

"Everybody else has passed whatever they need to pass and we'll make a decision on availability for how many minutes, start or otherwise, as we go into tomorrow," he said.

The weather conditions in Toronto over the last few days -- which included both snow and rain -- have raised concerns about the state of the surface at BMO Field. Based on TFC's previous home games, the expectation is that the playing surface will be less than ideal.

Victor Vazquez celebrates his opener on Monday.
Victor Vazquez was unavailable for Toronto's CCL semifinal against Club America, but should be ready to play against Chivas.

But Vanney indicated that the field has been covered in a bid to keep it dry, and that both teams will have to see how the field is playing during warm-ups.

"If the pitch is playing any differently I think you have to be smart and have to play to the conditions at times," he said. "But at the same time we have to play within vision of what we think is going to give us the best chance to win the game.

"If the conditions are such that we have to alter that, then we will. But as of right now there's nothing to indicate that we would need to do so."

At this stage, Vanney is more concerned about the unique tactical approach taken by Chivas, especially in the way they press opponents.

"They're a very personal team," said Vanney about Chivas. "Once they decide to initiate pressure they get very personal, man-on-man marking. They will track guys all around the field. They're very disciplined in that, they're very good at the individual marking in terms of taking up good angles and taking up good marking positions and moving with guys. In that way they're unique.

"You'll see a lot of teams that will zone and will find the moments to lock in and mark guys and shift in certain moments in the game. They're very personal to the extent that many times they don't change [who they mark]. So if players change positions, they'll just stay with them and change positions with them."

One complication for Toronto is that it has five players -- Michael Bradley, Altidore, Sebastian Giovinco, Jonathan Osorio and Drew Moor -- who will be suspended for the second leg if they pick up a yellow card on Tuesday. Osorio indicated that balancing being aggressive without picking up another card is a matter of playing smart

"Maybe there's opportunities where you have to foul, but you foul in a smart way," Osorio said. "You go after the ball and don't make it so obvious, maybe. You've got to play smart. You can't take stupid yellows for talking to the ref and stuff like that. You're just a little more cautious, but the way you play doesn't change too much."

Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.

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