Toronto FC and Santos Laguna. The two don't belong on the same field let alone in the same competition, right?
After all, Santos Laguna have won Mexican titles before - los Guerreros were the first Mexican team to win a short-season title, capturing the Invierno 96 crown. They may not be one of Mexico's Big Four but they are a well-respected team within their league and one of the few Mexican teams to have built their own stadium recently, a testament to the passionate support the club enjoys in Torreon.
Toronto FC meanwhile... well, they're just a sad sack of a club, or so the perception is. Toronto FC have yet to make the playoffs, yet to win an MLS match that matters, have gone through countless coaches and players in their short existence.
And yet, here they are, these two clubs from opposite ends of the success/respect spectrum, fighting for a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League final.
Toronto FC were not a hapless club against the LA Galaxy. Now there's a team that was heavily favored, was supposed to waltz through TFC, supposed to capture attention throughout the region and the world by making a CCL run and TFC did not care. TFC did not bat an eyelid. When the Galaxy overcame a 2-0 deficit to level terms late in the first leg, ensuring that a low-scoring draw would be good enough to get through to the semifinals, Toronto FC did well to keep a level head. When Toronto FC scored an own goal to tie the second leg and give the Galaxy the edge, the Canadians kept fighting, kept battling and scored, and did not let the high-flying Galaxy back into the match.
And it is Toronto FC who are deserved semifinal representatives. Remember, this is the same Toronto FC squad that tied Pumas at home in the group stage and punched their ticket into the quarterfinals with a 3-0 win at FC Dallas. They earned their spot in the knockout rounds and earned their spot in the semifinals.
Now, their league form is terrible. Two losses by a combined 6-1 is probably most were expecting out of Toronto in their series against the Galaxy. But that matters nothing against Santos.
Of course the Mexicans are heavily favored to win the series. Mexican teams have dominated the CCL. Santos are in fine form in league and demolished Seattle by 6-1 to book their spot in the semifinal round. And with the second leg scheduled for Torreon on April 4, Santos has an advantage in this series too.
But nobody told Toronto FC that they were supposed to lose to the Galaxy. And I doubt they got the message that Santos Laguna should prevail here either.