Toluca visits Leon in the first leg of the LIGA Bancomer MX Clausura 2014 semifinals. The match-up will pit the CONCACAF Champions League (CCL) runners-up against the reigning Mexican league champions. The game will be played on Thursday, May 8th at 9:00pm EST and it will be televised on Telemundo in the USA.
Toluca have to be considered the favorites to take the Clausura 2014 trophy but they won't have an easy time with Leon in the semifinals. Leon are coming off eliminating the only other tournament favorite, Cruz Azul. It was Cruz Azul and Toluca that completely dominated the league from start to finish and now that the "Blue Machine" is out, Toluca is the only fair candidate left.
Toluca manager Jose Saturnino Cardoza - a club legend as a player - has the team in its second consecutive semifinal after taking over the reigns two seasons ago. Cardozo, who won multiple Golden Boots and league championships with the Diablos Rojos, is looking to win his first with the club as a manager. He already led them to one domestic semifinal and one CCL final.
In their league meeting Toluca defeated Leon 2-1 in Week 11 in rout to a second place finish in the league table. Mauricio Mendoza had given Leon the 0-1 lead relatively early in the match, but Gabriel Velasco tied the game before halftime and Oscar Rojas found a game winner in the second half.
Toluca had to go up against the Tijuana Xolos in the quarterfinals stage, where they managed a 0-0 draw away from home in the first leg and a strong 3-1 win at home in the second leg. Toluca were the best home side in all of the Clausura 2014 season and will probably go for a similar game plan against Leon.
PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR:
Toluca are stacked with a number of quality players but these selected few will be hungry to impress.
Miguel Ponce: The Olympic Gold Medal winning left-back is right on the edge of making the final 23-man roster to the World Cup or staying home. He has a maximum of four matches left to convince Herrera that he is a worthy back-up to Miguel Layun. His long distance goal which gave Toluca the lead over Tijuana last Sunday will have the youngster full of confidence and hope of making that list.
Isaac Brizuela: Brizuela has his spot on the Mexican National Team roster a little more secure than Ponce but he still needs strong performances in the Mexican playoffs to fully lock down that ticket to Brazil and win himself a spot in the starting lineup. He has the capability to dazzle the fans at anytime with his dribbling and passing abilities. He is also cool in front of goal and can find a way to get on the score-sheet.
Pablo Velazquez: The Apertura 2013 Golden Boot winner was out-shadowed this season by Pachuca's Enner Valencia. And after not making the starting lineup against the Xolos on the second leg of the quarterfinals, the Paraguayan striker will be out for blood. Count on this player getting at least one goal in the 180 minute series.