Reds need to get something out of next two games or they will completely squander early season good will from supporters.
After five weeks of play, Toronto FC was supposed to have stamped its new-found authority on soccer in this part of the world.
And it started off well. A raucous home crowd of nearly 48,000 watched their beloved Reds stand toe-to-toe with the reigning MLS champions, kicking and fighting their way to a 2-2 draw with the Los Angeles Galaxy to open the CONCACAF Champions League knockout stage with a bang.
In the return leg, Toronto shocked the continent by playing the star-studded Galaxy off the Home Depot Center pitch and claiming a massive 2-1 win to advance to the semifinal round - and a pair of dates with Mexican giants Santos Laguna.
Last week at BMO Field, TFC once again traded blows with a much more fancied opponent, literally scrapping to a 1-1 draw with Santos in a card-filled slugfest that set the tone heading into tonight's semifinal closer.
If you were to judge Toronto's season so far based solely on the Champions League, you'd have to think that Aron Winter's squad is fulfilling its potential. A mid-season overhaul last year brought about a sea change in playing tactics and personnel, and the Reds' form to close out 2011 showed signs of promise that, finally, Canada's first MLS team was going to give its faithful supporters something to cheer about in 2012.
And it's been mission accomplished in the continental championship.
But in stark contrast to TFC's Champions League form is the team's play in the league. Three straight losses to kick off the MLS campaign - including two very winnable matchups in Toronto - sees the Reds mired in last place as the only team in Major League Soccer to not have recorded at least single point so far this year.
Yes, it's still early, and Toronto's unexpected run through the CCL has masked the dreadful start to the MLS season, but the Champions League run will only last so long. A best-case scenario would have the Reds playing CCL football until the end of the month, but the very real possibility exists that tonight will mark the end of TFC's North American dream.
If that were to happen - and given the astronomical odds against TFC tonight in Torreon, it should be taken under heavy consideration by the team's fans - Toronto will be faced with a game on Saturday against arch-rival Montréal in which a win would be an absolute must.
If TFC bows out of the Champions League tonight and then loses in Québec on the weekend, the team will have suffered two massive psychological blows in the span of three days. And they'd be 0-and-4, with nothing else to look forward to except a huge hill to climb.
That's not exactly how Toronto fans envisioned things before the season.
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