Chivas boss says Toronto FC has 'all our respect' ahead of CCL final
TORONTO - Chivas manager Matias Almeyda said Toronto FC, his team's opponent in the final of the CONCACAF Champions League, has "all our respect" heading into Tuesday's first leg.
Toronto have already dispatched Liga MX sides U.A.N.L. Tigres and Club America, and the Reds will attempt to secure a decisive advantage in Tuesday's match at BMO Field. Chivas meanwhile will be trying to keep TFC within touching distances, and take a manageable result back to the Estadio Akron in Guadalajara.
"I think the two best teams have gotten into the final," said Almeyda with the help of a translator. "They have a style, a marked style, and one of the formulas they have is how they go back and close spaces.
"They are confident in the people they have, a very dynamic team, very complete team that plays very well with a [clear] identity, which is not that easy to have in a team. So they have all our respect."
Given the inclement weather -- complete with snow and rain -- that has plagued the Toronto area in the past few days, Almeyda was asked if he was worried given his side's unfamiliarity with such conditions.
"It's up to us to adapt when you aren't used to this weather," said Almeyda. "We in Guadalajara have the perfect weather. You can feel the cold, but we know that our players have warm blood, so I'm not worried.
"The weather, even if they are more used to it more than us, the game is 11 against 11, it's a final, and there's no justification that will modify the way we play."
Both sides find themselves two games away from making a trip to the FIFA Club World Cup, but Almeyda insists his side's focus is on the present.
"Right now we can't look that far ahead," Almeyda said. "The future is always uncertain. The president today said we are playing a final. Today's the last night before a final. We have many dreams to complete."
Almeyda also refused to be drawn in about who is the favorite, though after dispatching Tigres and America, TFC is widely believed to possess that tag.
"I never think there is a favorite in any part, because the game hasn't started," he said. "Favorites exist because it is a way you can sell something. It's a way you can expect a result for good or for bad. If I believe in God, I cannot believe in all that."
Given the high-profile confrontations between Liga MX and MLS sides during the current edition, the CCL has gained increased notoriety this year. When asked if the CCL was increasing in prestige against the Libertadores, Almeyda highlighted some important differences, though he said he would like to see a united tournament of the Americas.
"They are two different tournaments, different cultures," he said. "We are in Canada since Saturday. We haven't seen any Toronto fans, we've seen Chivas fans who have traveled there to see us. In the Copa Libertadores, when a team arrives in another city, they don't sleep. That's a difference.
"The fields are not the same. They make you feel like you're away, and when you're home, you feel at home. They are two different tournaments. It's a shame they cannot bring them together. It should be all one tournament to see who is the best team in America, because we are all from America."
Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.