7/28/2009 – By Peter Mallett
TORONTO — Toronto FC has injury problems. Puerto Rico is in the midst of a grueling road trip. Neither kick off their CONCACAF Champions League hopes Wednesday at the most opportune moment.
For Toronto, it hosts its first competitive international match missing Honduran international midfielder Amado Guevara, who bruised his ribs in Saturday’s 3-2 loss at Columbus. Also absent will be Canadian international defender Adrian Serioux, who picked up an unspecified knock on Saturday, and defender Nana Attakora (hamstring).
Despite the loss of three regulars, Toronto coach Chris Cummins remained upbeat about the three-year-old club and its first game on the international stage in the Preliminary Round.
“If we can beat Puerto Rico and get through to the group stage it can only be good for the club,” Cummins said. “We are looking to go in and win every game. If we can make it to the next stage, you never know we might be facing the likes of Man U or Barcelona [at the Club World Cup].”
Rookie midfielder Sam Cronin returns after playing in two games for the United States at the CONCACAF Gold Cup, including in Sunday’s 5-0 loss to Mexico in the championship game.
The Reds defeated last year’s Champions League surprise quarterfinalist Montreal 6-1 in the final game of the Nurtrilite Canadian Championship on June 18 to advance to the Preliminary Round.
Canadian international midfielder Dwayne De Rosario leads the team with seven goals in Major League Soccer – not including the three against Montreal – with support from Danny Dichio, Chad Barrett and Pablo Vitti, who account for another seven combined.
Wednesday’s match against Toronto will mark the ninth consecutive road game for the Islanders after Saturday’s 4-2 loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps, which took nearly four hours to complete due to severe weather.
The element of surprise coach Colin Clarke and the Orange Troop used to help reach the semifinals of last year’s Champions League is no more.
Defender Cristian Arrieta leads Puerto Rico with seven goals – and also ranks second among scoring leaders in the United Soccer Leagues First Division – while Jamaican international striker Nicholas Addlerly has contributed four.
The Islanders, which were noted for their defense last year, have allowed a goal a game in the USL thi season, and are still led by 2008 USL goalkeeper of the year Bill Gaudette, who currently leads the league in minutes (1890) saves (89), wins (9) and also has a second-best eight shutouts so far this season.
Puerto Rico will be without Clarke on the bench for the first and second legs of the Preliminary Round due to his expulsion from the title match of the CFU Club Champions Cup in May.
The two teams will then travel to Puerto Rico for the second leg on August 4.