MONTERREY, Mexico — The message from Toronto FC striker Jozy Altidore to probable CONCACAF Champions League semifinal opponent Club America is that the MLS champions can get better.
Toronto recorded a famous result in advancing past Liga MX champion Tigres in Tuesday’s quarterfinal second leg, losing 3-2 on the night in Estadio Universitario, but going through on away goals after a 4-4 aggregate start.
“Honestly, we’re happy to have gone through, but we didn’t play well today,” said Altidore after the game, speaking in Spanish. “We know we did ok but there is more to come from us.
“We know we have to get better for the next round.”
Toronto held on at the end of the game as Tigres came from 2-1 behind to lead 3-2 through two late goals from French striker Andre-Pierre Gignac in a memorable match.
“It’s a big night for our club, our players and an experience that I think that will serve us well as we go forward in this competition,” said Toronto coach Greg Vanney in a news conference afterwards.
Toronto is likely to face Club America in the next round, with the Mexican side already 4-0 up against Tauro FC from last week’s first leg, but Vanney isn’t shying away from his club’s ambition and ability to win the CCL.
“We’re fully capable of winning this event,” said Vanney. “This was a huge series in showing our ability to do so. Obviously making do with our home matches is important.”
TFC captain and U.S. international Michael Bradley stressed that the series against Tigres highlighted the qualities of both teams and leagues and lived up to its billing as a showdown between the champions of MLS and Liga MX.
“It’s clear that MLS continues to grow,” he said. “I think Liga MX continues to grow. I think overall football in this region is exciting and full of quality.”
“The opportunity to play two matches with everything on the line against the best Mexican team over the last three or four years was something we were very excited about.
“I think for everybody from the outside these games lived up to the hype in every way. You saw two very good teams go after each other and ultimately two great games.”
Toronto didn’t celebrate wildly on the final whistle and Bradley suggested that it was because the team has greater ambitions.
“The goal from the beginning wasn’t to win the quarterfinal,” said the former Roma midfielder. “We feel like we have a group that can be in this tournament until the very end.
“I think over the course of the two legs we deserved to go through, but in the end we’ve not done anything yet.”
Tigres coach Ricardo “Tuca” Ferretti said the defeat left him disappointed, but that he felt his players gave everything.
“The team that plays better doesn’t always win,” said the Brazilian after the match in a news conference. “We were much superior, they had two or three attacks and took advantage of their opportunities.
“We couldn’t convert from our many attacks.”
Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.