Deportivo Toluca FC, or more commonly known, Toluca are preparing to face the 2017 US Open Cup Champions Sporting Kansas City on Thursday, February 21, 2019. It’s the opening round of the CONCACAF Champions League and it’s the first of a two-game home and away series.
Sporting KC host the first leg in what is likely to be a slightly less bitter cold outing and then one week later KC travels to Mexico to play at altitude. Before that game, let’s get to know the enemy.
The team was founded in 1917 and play in Liga MX, the top division of Mexican football. The club is no slouch either having won the league 10 times, third behind only Mexican giants Club America and Chivas Guadalajara. Toluca won their 10th title in 2010.
In addition they’ve won the domestic cup twice and also have won the Champions Cup twice. The Champions Cup was the prelude to the Champions League and it ran from 1962 to 2008. Toluca won in 1968 and most recently in 2003.
Toluca play at the Estadio Nemesio Díez, which is nicknamed La Bombonera. It has a capacity of 30,000 seats and is one of the oldest stadiums in Mexico. It was built way back in 1954 but had a $40 million renovation in 2017. It is a grass surface and at one point the team only played games in the middle of the day because the stadium had no lights. That has since been rectified.
Toluca FC are located in Toluca, Mexico. Toluca is the capital of the State of Mexico and is located approximately 40 miles for Mexico City. The city itself has less than a million people but the metropolitan area is north of 2.2 million, right on par with KC.
Interestingly, due to its elevation, the weather there is the coolest in the region and temperatures in the winter can get down to freezing. So the cold weather of Kansas City may be less of an advantage than first believed.
Speaking of elevation, the city sits at 8,750 feet above sea level. By comparison KC is just 909 feet above sea level. MLS opponents the Colorado Rapids play around 5,000 feet above sea level while Real Salt Lake are just north of 4,000 feet. The home field advantage seems tilted towards Toluca.
There is a second division team in Toluca as well, Potros UAEM, who currently have a handful of Toluca players playing there on loan. Toluca also have their reserve side in the city playing in the third division.
How Toluca Got Here
While Toluca haven’t been as strong in recent seasons, they qualified for the Champions League by finishing second in the 2018 Liga MX Clausura. Liga MX is divided into two seasons. The Clausura is the winter season and the Apertura is the summer season. They finished 7th in the 2018 Apertura with a 8-7-2 record and fell in the playoffs in the quarterfinals (first round) to Club America.
They are currently sitting in 15th in the current Clausura season with just a 2-4-1 record, including going 0-4-1 in their last five. Fans are calling for their manager, Hernán Cristante, to be fired. He’s only been the coach since the 2016 Apertura tournament. Despite such a short tenure, he’s been head coach longer than most coaches in the league. Much like in Europe, turnover is high in Liga MX.
While they are in the middle of a poor season and had a mediocre Apertura, they had a great Clausura in 2018. At the end of the regular season they sat first in the table with an 11-3-3 record. They would go on to defeat Monarcas Morelia in the quarters before beating Club Tijuana in the semi-finals before ultimately falling to Santos Laguna in the title game.
How to Watch
In the United States, Liga MX games are shown across a variety of platforms. If you are wanting to do some scouting the games are spread across Fox Sports, Univision Deportes, ESPN Deportes and Fox Deportes.
For the CCL game though, it will be streamed over the internet on Yahoo Sports.
With our lack of Spanish speaking around The Blue Testament, it’s been hard to find much information on Toluca. We won’t pretend to be experts. One good source has actually been Sporting KC themselves, as they’ve kept up their “Tracking Toluca” series over the last couple months. The most recent version has all the Clausura stats and highlights Toluca’s recent poor form.