- Toronto FC hoping to win first CONCACAF Champions League title
- Canadian club face Mexican giants Chivas Guadalajara in the final
- Osorio: The first leg is going to be key
Most youngsters growing up in Canada usually have aspirations to be an ice hockey star or reach the podium at the Winter Olympics. For Toronto FC midfielder Jonathan Osorio, his dreams led to a career in football - a sport close to his South American roots.
“It’s a huge part of who I am. I grew up in Toronto, but in my household, it was a very Colombian culture,” Osorio said in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com. “In Colombia, football is the big sport, and it was my dad’s favourite sport. He passed that on to me and my brothers and we grew up to love the game. I believe my Colombian roots have helped me get to where I am now.”
A proud Canadian, who has made 20 international appearances for the North American nation, Osorio is happy to share his favourite Colombian footballing moment. “It was at the last World Cup, James [Rodriguez]’s goal against Uruguay in the Round of 16 and Colombia making the quarter-finals for the first time. That was huge.”
Looking to make history
Osorio can relate to scoring an important goal on the big stage. Last Tuesday in the Estadio Azteca, his early strike against Mexican giants Club America was a key moment in securing Toronto FC’s place in this year’s CONCACAF Champions League final, as they won the semi-final clash 4-2 on aggregate. The result puts the Major League Soccer (MLS) club within touching distance of the region’s top club prize and claiming CONCACAF’s berth at the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2018. “It was amazing [to score] and an honour to play in that stadium, to represent my city and everything, and to play in such a big game,” Osorio said. “More than anything, I was just happy about what [the goal] meant in the actual game.”
Toronto FC’s journey to the two-legged final is the latest chapter in what has been a highly successful period for the Canadian outfit. They earned their CONCACAF Champions League spot by successfully defending their Canadian Championship title before claiming their first-ever MLS Supporters’ Shield (regular season champions) and MLS Cup titles in late 2017.
The focus now is on ending the dominance of Mexican clubs in the CONCACAF Champions League, having already upset the odds by eliminating the Liga MX duo of Tigres UANL and Club America. Standing in Toronto FC’s way of an historic first title is Club Deportivo (Chivas) Guadalajara, with the first leg taking place in Toronto this Tuesday 17 April before the decisive leg is played in Guadalajara on Wednesday 25 April.
Osorio believes the game plan that successfully guided the Reds past Tigres and America will be key to overcoming Chivas in the final. “Our belief is that we can play with them,” Osorio said. “In those four games, we didn’t just sit back and defend a lot. What we did was attack them. Similar to the other series, the first game is going to be key. We need to give ourselves an advantage before going back to Mexico, so that’s a huge key. If we put all our focus into the first leg, we’ll be in good shape.”
Did you know?
- Only Mexican clubs have won the CONCACAF Champions League title since the competition’s formation in 2008
- Monterrey is the most successful CONCACAF Champions League side with three titles, while Club America is the most successful club in the region with seven CONCACAF titles
- Real Salt Lake (2011) and Montreal Impact (2015) are the only other MLS clubs to have reached the final
- Osorio is one six players to lead the competition’s scoring charts with three goals
Should Toronto FC realise their goal of a regional crown later this month, a ticket to the United Arab Emirates and this year’s Club World Cup would also be secured by the Reds. Though his main thoughts are on the final, Osorio appreciates the potential of his side being the first from Canada and MLS to appear in the world club finals.
“I think it’s every footballers dream to play on the biggest stage,” he said. “The Club World Cup means you are representing your club and your continent, and that you are playing for a trophy that means you are the best in the world. It’s biggest tournament in club soccer, so that would definitely be a dream come true.”