By LANCE HORNBY
Toronto FC might want to keep those thick woolly team scarves at home when it goes island hopping for a first taste of CONCACAF tournament play.
While the home-and-home dates with the United Soccer League's Puerto Rico Islanders are not set, Toronto will be going to the U.S. territory in the first week of August, when it is often rainy and steamy with a high of around 90.
The first leg in Toronto should be in late July, possibly the 28th or 29th at BMO Field, but no ticket information has been released yet.
TFC could have flown to Puerto Rico on adrenalin alone Thursday night after a stunning six-goal outburst in Montreal earned it the Nutrilite Canadian championship. A small group of fans braved the soggy conditions and the daunting prospect of a four-goal win and wound up partying with the players afterwards at Saputo Stadium. It was the first hardware ever won by the three-year-old franchise.
"Spectacular ... overwhelming," said Tom Anselmi, executive vice-president and COO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd., yesterday. "To be down so early on a penalty (requiring them to score at least five to beat out the Impact and Vancouver Whitecaps) and have the players work so hard, was a really important step for us.
"The first message I received was from Greg Kerfoot (the Whitecaps owner) telling us to carry the Canadian flag high in Puerto Rico. Look at the job Montreal did in this tournament last year (reaching the quarterfinal)."
If TFC wins the home-and-home against the Islanders, the next phase is a series involving Cruz Azul of Mexico City, Saprissa of Costa Rica and the defending Major League Soccer champion Columbus Crew.
TFC, which is 5-5-4 in MLS play, is next in action at BMO Field on Wednesday against the last-place New York Red Bulls. An August date against the Bulls was moved up to a week ago to allow TFC to play an Aug. 7 friendly against Real Madrid.