By: KURTIS LARSON
Has a 1-0 win ever felt so uneasy?
"On another day we finish one or two more chances and go to Honduras two or three goals up," Dwayne De Rosario said while walking to the changing room.
The players didn't know what to feel following Terry Vaughn's final whistle, neither did the 18,000 plus in attendance.
"We created a lot of chances but the disappointment was that we didn't put a second goal away," Preki reiterated in his post-game remarks. "We'll take the result right now and we have seven days to get ready for the return game."
TFC controlled things from the beginning playing with an extremely high back four and pressuring Motagua everywhere on the field. Pre-season jitters and rust showed early in the game as the Hondurans mis-played a number of balls and had difficulty holding possession and getting into the attack early.
The pressure eventually lead to TFC striking early after pouncing on a mistake deep in Motagua's half.
In the 20th minute a sloppy back pass saw TFC's O'Brian White break up the play allowing De Rosario to pounce on the loose ball and create a two-on-one situation alongside Chad Barrett. De Rosario slid the ball across to Barrett who tucked the ball away from the penalty spot to take a 1-0 early lead.
"I think we had the better of chances throughout the game," Barrett told reporters. "It's a great result to take out of here and it's better than our first game against Puerto Rico last year."
"We are going to have a game plan going to (Honduras)," Preki went on to say. "We're happy we didn't give away a goal in the end but we had plenty of chances to score again. The goals are not coming easy for us right now."
Toronto were never going to be comfortable with anything short of a two-goal lead heading into next week's return leg. Julian de Guzman, O'Brian White and Jacob Peterson all failed to convert multiple half-chances in the second half, making missed opportunities the favored storyline.
After allowing the Hondurans to stay close throughout the 90 minutes, Motagua came close to punishing Toronto late, almost putting TFC's hopes of advancing out of reach.
In the 84th minute a quick exchange at the top of the penalty area saw Motagua's Georgie Welcome in on goal. Playing in his first competitive game since the World Cup, the Honduran international slid the ball across the face of goal to an unmarked Esdras Padilla who fanned on an absolute sitter.
"The team was a little nervous," Motagua head coach Ramon Maradiaga told reporters through a translator. "In the second half the game was quite even. We hope we can turn it around next week and in a way, we were quite happy with the result."
TFC made five changes to the lineup that drew with Dallas on the weekend, leaving some to speculate about Preki's commitment to come away in better position ahead of next weeks return leg in Honduras. Still, critics couldn't deny the number of chances that were created and then squandered.
In the 18th minute O'Brian White had his best chance to score after finding himself alone at the top of the penalty area. His first touch took him too far into the box allowing a Motagua defender to slide in at the last moment and deny the one-on-one attempt with the keeper.
In the 36th minute De Guzman had his best chance of the game after receiving a through ball from White. The Canadian International appeared to be in alone on goal, but instead took the ball away from goal and saw a weak left-footed attempt claimed by the keeper.
Minutes later Chad Barrett was put clean through on goal after receiving a splitting pass from De Rosario. Looking to tally his second goal of the match, Barrett's first touch was so poor it allowed a chasing Motagua defender to catch up and thwart the promising chance.
"We have a game against Kansas City coming up and after that we have a day or two to figure out what we're going to do in Honduras," Barrett said. "We're going to need a lot of players to step up."
In past years a 1-0 result would not have been good enough heading into a difficult game in Central America. That said, Adrian Cann and Nana Attakora were mistake free once again, giving the Reds a real chance in such a difficult environment.
The question remains, what kind of game plan will Preki deploy in Honduras? Is the league at the point yet where an MLS side can go into Honduras with a one goal advantage and defend for 90 minutes, or is pushing for an away goal paramount in this situation?
A draw for Toronto and they're through to the group stages. An early goal for the Hondurans would likely seal TFC's fate.