Tigres win inaugural Campeones Cup at listless TFC's expense
Vaughn Ridley / Getty Images Sport / Getty

TORONTO - Tigres finally found some relief on the continental stage after winning 3-1 at Toronto FC's BMO Field in the first-ever Campeones Cup on Wednesday.

The northern Mexican club was turfed out of the CONCACAF Champions League by Toronto FC in March, and has also lost in finals of two other Champions League campaigns and a Copa Libertadores in the past three years.

Jesus Duenas, the only Tigres player not to start in their previous match at Pachuca on Saturday, was the hero with goals on either side of half-time. The game was put out of reach courtesy of an own goal from Eriq Zavaleta, leaving Lucas Janson to pocket a late consolation for TFC from the penalty spot.


Despite plenty of assertions to the contrary, United States defender Matt Miazga mocking pint-sized Mexican teenager Diego Lainez's height last week did not greatly amp up soccer tensions across North America. The idea of an annual Campeones Cup, then, as a tool to potentially turn up the heat of rivalries either side of the Rio Grande seems a pretty good idea.

Promotion and organization need to be sorted out, though. Before kickoff, the competition's unverified Twitter page had under 2,000 followers. The timing wasn't ideal for Toronto FC while their path into the MLS postseason is becoming increasingly overgrown, nor was it good for Tigres amid a fiercely contested Apertura and ahead of Sunday's Clasico Regiomontano - the derby with local rivals Monterrey.

And, considering both teams fell short in the prestigious CONCACAF Champions League, the midweek final had the feeling of a participation award.

Nevertheless, the tinny yet rousing buzz of Mexican horns chorusing from the north end of the ground brought some flavor. There was a lurking menace when Jozy Altidore reacted angrily to Guido Pizarro kicking the ball at him when he was on the deck. Maybe, if the players were in the mood, there could've been a hard-fought battle for silverware.

Tigres were the first to panic when Nick Hagglund's downward header from a corner bounced over goalkeeper Nahuel Guzman and had to be nodded off the line by one of the half-dozen yellow shirts crammed in and around the six-yard box. Jay Chapman was also thwarted by Guzman's crossbar. However, when Eduardo Vargas streaked forward and perhaps made an error when going for the shot rather than squaring for Andre-Pierre Gignac, it was the first clear indicator that the hosts could be caught by balls behind the defense.

It was a punt over the top from center-back Juninho that found the run of Duenas, who kept his composure while under duress from Michael Bradley to fire past Alex Bono after 36 minutes.


To make life a little harder for Toronto FC, Sebastian Giovinco was forced out of the action five minutes before the interval with an injury. Argentinian forward Janson was brought on as his replacement, with manager Greg Vanney describing Giovinco's ailment post-match as merely "tightness in his calves."

Tigres were in control to begin the second half, with the lively Vargas hitting the upright with an attempt from outside the 18-yard box.

A hint of where the Campeones Cup ranked in Vanney's priorities was given when Altidore was withdrawn for Tosaint Ricketts before an hour had elapsed. The burly striker wasn't carrying an injury, so he was being rested for Saturday's trip to the New York Red Bulls.

"It's interesting to have the two champions playing each other. It's just a tough time of year for us, right now. That's just the facts of the situation," Vanney conceded in his post-match press conference. "At some point, we also have to keep in mind that we have a very important match on the weekend, and that was part of our choices along the way."

He added: "We wanted to win this game, but we understand the importance of what's in front of us."

The game was over nine minutes after Altidore's substitution. Duenas fired a stunning, first-time hit from outside the area for his second of the night, and moments later it was 3-0 when a shot took a heavy deflection off Eriq Zavaleta and squirmed past Bono.

Janson netted from 12 yards four minutes short of the allotted 90 when Toronto FC were awarded a penalty for a handball. The Reds frantically tried to register another goal, but it often ended in calamity; a snap-shot from Chapman was inadvertently blocked by teammate Ricketts in the dying moments.

When asked what he thought of the first installment of the Campeones Cup after the game, Tigres handler Ricardo "Tuca" Ferretti said via a translator that he's "sure the next one will be much better" because of the resources at the disposal of Liga MX and MLS.

For now, Ferretti will have a small amount of time to bask in the glory before the weekend's showdown with Monterrey. The affable coach will also be hounded by the incessant reports that he's being lined up for the Mexico vacancy after his latest success.

Tigres win inaugural Campeones Cup at listless TFC's expense
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