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New signing gets shot at Dallas

Posted on 02 August 2008 by Scott Ferguson

FC Dallas visit BMO Field on Sunday, looking to avoid a repeat of last season’s 4-0 hammering in Toronto and cause a first Major League Soccer loss at home for TFC.

Steve Morrow was in charge when his Hoops crashed at BMO last season in a result that gave the hosts a flicker of hope in the playoff hunt. Three points is just as essential this time around for Toronto, who have faltered in recent weeks, threatening to take the gloss off what was proving to be a promising sophomore season.

Speaking of 4-0 wins, new FC Dallas coach Schellas Hyndman saw his side snap a four-game winless streak by hammering LA Galaxy last weekend. The former boss of Southern Methodist University’s soccer program is well-travelled, having been born in Macao, but Sunday’s trip will represent his first to Canada as a visiting coach.

Another late goal away from home was enough to sink Toronto to a 2-1 loss in Salt Lake this past Monday. The club’s dismal away form means that their notorious home advantage is crucial, with the Reds needing to make the most of the home comforts afforded by the unpredictable turf and riotous crowd by the waterfront.

Chad Barrett recently joined the club from Chicago Fire in exchange for Brian McBride, who had been briefly acquired thanks to Toronto’s place at the top of the allocation spots. With Danny Dichio still out injured and Jeff Cunningham’s future at the club far from certain, rumours are persisting of more new signings, with English frontman Paul Dickov and Canadian international striker Ali Gerba suggested as targets in recent weeks.

“Hopefully the fans will be happy that I’m here,” Barrett told reporters at his unveiling as a Toronto FC player. “It’s a great place to play, and it always lifts your game playing in front of great home fans… The fans are expecting a lot out of me and I welcome that pressure. Good players thrive on pressure.”

Captain Jim Brennan is set to take up left back duties in the long-term absence of Todd Dunivant, while Kevin Harmse is likely to join the American on the injured list for Sunday’s game with a knee problem.

Hyndman will be missing David Wagenfuhr and goalkeeper Ray Burse, while the club’s medical staff is sweating on Andrew Daniels’ fitness ahead of Sunday’s game.

Winger Arturo Alvarez recently joined Canadian manager Frank Yallop at San Jose from Dallas, leaving the club short in the midfield until he was replaced on Friday by former Ajax midfielder and Dutch international Victor Sikora. The attacker, who spent the last few seasons at NAC Breda, is unlikely to play against Toronto.

Amidst FCD’s efforts to keep hold of free-scoring striker Kenny Cooper, midfielder Juan Toja has just signed a deal with Romanian side Steaua Bucuresti. The loss of the mulleted Colombian will be a blow to the Hoops, who saw their talisman play in the MLS All-Star game in each of his two seasons in the league and even score a goal last year against Scottish side Celtic.

Toronto’s own creative midfielder Amado Guevara had what looked like a late leveller in Utah on Monday, but again the Reds lost their concentration in the dying stages of an away match. 20 000+ screaming fans means that shouldn’t be a problem at home, but finishing the team’s chances will have been high on Carver’s agenda in training this week. The team have missed a host of chances in recent weeks, with Jeff Cunningham culpable of missing more than one opportunity to take his all-time MLS regular season goal tally to 100.

Guevara will likely take to the field against some of his Toronto FC teammates when Canada take on Honduras in Montreal on September 6th in World Cup qualifying. Defender Tyrone Marshall is set to do the same during Jamaica’s August 20th visit to BMO Field, a ground he knows well. Marshall has been one of the few models of stability in TFC’s backline, having seen the players around him shuffled to accomodate for the loss of right back Marvell Wynne to the Olympics.

Centerback Julius James looked out of place in Wynne’s spot against Salt Lake and was caught out more than once, potentially opening the door for youngster Nana Attakora-Gyan to start against Dallas.

With the playoff hunt heating up more than halfway through the season, Toronto’s fans will know that another 0-0 draw at home just won’t do. A debut goal would be a great introduction for Barrett, but Cunningham’s search for 100 looks set to end in Toronto in the coming weeks, whether he finally reaches the century or finds himself waived to make room for more new arrivals.

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Reds hope to snap slump in Utah

Posted on 28 July 2008 by Scott Ferguson

Toronto FC will travel to Salt Lake on Monday night, hoping to steal three points from the same ground they took their first ever away win last season.

Winless in nine matches (including friendlies and Canadian Championship results), Toronto are in danger of seeing the wheels come off their playoff dreams. Last year, a 2-1 win at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Independence Day was enough to give hope to the Reds, but poor away form through the rest of the campaign doomed the Canadian club to last place in the league.

Dismal road form has been a thorn in the side of John Carver’s men in 2008 once again, having claimed just one win from seven trips. That performance, a 3-2 victory over Los Angeles in April, gave rise to hopes that Toronto may have turned around their away jinx, but recent results have shown that a huge gap remains between the club’s away performances and their play with BMO Field’s notoriously loyal fans behind them.

Real Salt Lake are flying high in just their fourth season, sitting atop the Western Conference, although the split table can be deceiving given the relative poor play of the sides from the West this season. RSL sit just two points up from Toronto in the overall standings with two games in hand, but the Reds are mired in fourth in the East and hovering around the playoff zone.

Carver will miss Maurice Edu and Marvell Wynne, both a part of the United States’ Olympic team (along with RSL’s Chris Seitz) in China. Rumours persist that American striker Chad Barrett will join the club from Chicago as part of the deal that sees Toronto give up their right to acquire veteran hitman Brian McBride, but the forward is unlikely to join up with the squad until after the RSL trip.

Todd Dunivant has been placed on the season-ending injury list in a move that will free up salary cap space for Barrett. Fan favourite Danny Dichio is still out with a concussion; while Kevin Harmse, one of Wynne’s natural replacements at right back, may be unable to reach fitness with a knee problem. Youngster Nana-Attakora Gyan or centerback Marco Vélez may fill in on the right side of defense.

Olivier Tébily is listed as questionable for tonight’s game with an ankle injury, but rumours on fan sites persist that the French defender has returned to Europe, citing an inability to settle in Toronto. Whether he appears on the bench with the Reds in Salt Lake may be telling.

Countryman Laurent Robert, a friend of Tébily who helped him to adjust to life in Canada, is likely to start in Utah but will have to be wary of his discipline. One more yellow card will see the left winger miss TFC’s next match.

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Reeling from D.C. trip, TFC travel to Montreal

Posted on 26 May 2008 by Scott Ferguson

Just three days after twice giving up the lead in a 3-2 loss in Washington, Toronto FC will visit Montreal Impact at Stade Saputo on Tuesday night to kick off the 2008 Nutrilite Canadian Championship.

In the 13th minute at RFK Stadium, Danny Dichio scored with a close-range header from Jim Brennan’s cross, grabbing a goal from TFC’s first shot on target. D.C. struck back just four minutes before the half, with Gonzalo Peralta getting on the end of Devon McTavish’s flick-on at the far post. Peralta stooped low and headed in from close range to seemingly settle things up before halftime.

Dichio had other ideas, however, and just minutes later he played a give-and-go with Amado Guevara before sending a low shot into the bottom left corner of Zach Wells’ goal to stun the home crowd.

Toronto held on in the second half until the 70th minute, when a marauding Santino Quaranta was felled by a clumsy shove in the area by Marvell Wynne. Jaime Moreno stepped up to take the resulting penalty and calmly slotted past Greg Sutton, a familiar sight for TFC fans who saw the Bolivian tie the MLS all-time scoring charts with a penalty at BMO Field last season.

Quaranta would be credited with another assist just two minutes later as D.C. finally took the lead. Quaranta, who played with D.C. earlier in his career before returning for the 2008 season, unleashed a blast from outside the area that Greg Sutton couldn’t hold onto. The ball fell to the feet of the onrushing Luciano Emilio and the 2007 Golden Boot winner wasted no time in finishing past Sutton.

Tom Soehn and the United bench erupted in a mixture of relief and excitement, while it was difficult to see Toronto getting anything from the match. Dichio’s positional play and cool finishing were not as effective when TFC had to fight a side trying to preserve a lead, with Jeff Cunningham and Jarrod Smith making late cameos to try and rescue a point.

It was not to be, and the club’s six-match unbeaten run, coupled with Sutton’s clean sheet streak, came to an end. The stadium has so far proved unwelcoming for Toronto, as the young side have yet gain a point from RFK in their history.

“They have had a good result tonight,” TFC head coach John Carver told MLSNet. “I can see them going on a run now. Tom [Soehn] is a good coach, a good manager, and [runs] a good organization. People have to be patient with him… he has too many good players for him to be at the bottom of the league.”

Carver refused to blame Sutton for the mistake. “Greg has been outstanding for our football club,” he told reporters. “He has been one of the reasons why we have so many points and have won so many games lately… take the mistake away from it, he still had a great night. I said to him as soon as the final whistle blew, ‘don’t let that worry you, it’s about us picking ourselves up. We have a great run…’ we have now got to go on another run and we have a huge game on Tuesday.”

TFC will have picked themselves up for the trip to Montreal, where they’ll play l’Impact in the first match of the inaugural Canadian Championship. Fellow United Soccer Leagues Division One side Vancouver Whitecaps will join them in the three-team round robin tournament.

Last week’s stadium opener, a regular-season USL clash between Montreal and Vancouver, ended 0-0 in a result that will not affect Canadian Championship standings. The draw means that Toronto enter Saputo knowing that the game’s opening goal will be the first in stadium history. Having conceded that honour at BMO Field to Kansas City’s Eddie Johnson last season, entering the history books at Saputo would be a welcome tonic for TFC fans.

The two sides have started the season with contrasting fortunes, as Toronto have racked up four wins while Montreal are sitting at just 7 points from six games. Don’t let their early season form fool you into thinking TFC will have it easy — the club have never won against USL opposition, having drawn or lost in pre- and post-season friendlies against the likes of Charleston Battery and Portland Timbers.

For their part, Montreal have yet to play an MLS side, having been left out of the U.S. Open Cup along with Canadian USL sides from Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton throughout the last decade.

The winner of the Canadian Championship will gain entry into the 2008-2009 CONCACAF Champions League and be awarded the Voyageurs Cup, the trophy handed to the top professional Canadian soccer franchise since 2002. Traditionally, Canadian supporters the Voyageurs used USL-1 regular season results to determine the winner, a format that has seen Montreal win all six titles to date. The Canadian Soccer Association has since been loaned the prize and will award it to the Canadian champions, a label Montreal that will be desperate to keep, especially if it means getting one over on their traditional sporting rivals in Toronto.

The motivation will be high because it’s a different championship for us,” Montreal head coach Nick De Santis told MontrealImpact.com. “There is also a pride factor for us to play an MLS team and to do so at home.”

Two former TFC players are a part of the Impact roster for 2008, with right back Adam Braz joined by Cristian Nuñez, the young midfielder who didn’t see any first team action in Toronto’s expansion season last year.

For his part, Braz was looking forward to Tuesday’s match. “It’s always special when you play your former team, but more importantly, it’s a big game for our club,” he said in an interview with the club’s website. “It’s a huge event for the Impact, and we want to represent Canada at the CONCACAF Champions League. You always want to be the best, so that should give everyone added incentive to show that we are capable to beat [TFC].”

Greg Sutton came the other way ahead of the 2007 season after protracted negotiations between TFC and the Impact but only played eight games last season before suffering a concussion at Gold Cup training with Canada. He’s since been in fine form for Toronto in 2008 and should relish the chance to notch a clean sheet against his former club.

Midfielders Maurice Edu and Amado Guevara will not travel with TFC, having been called up to national team duty this week. Edu will play with the United States in a friendly at Wembley Stadium against host side England and LA Galaxy midfielder David Beckham.

With international call-ups and the upcoming spate of games in a short time, Toronto’s depth will be tested. Carver has expressed his reservations about a squad rotation system, but the likes of Cunningham and midfielders Tyler Rosenlund and Kevin Harmse will likely be called into action at some point in the coming weeks.

Following the Montreal trip, Toronto welcome a Beckham-less Galaxy to BMO Field on Saturday. Their next Canadian Championship matches come in a home-and-away series against Vancouver on Canada Day and July 8th, respectively. Toronto will close out the tournament, and hope to lift the trophy, in front of their home fans on July 22nd against Montreal.

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Soaring Crew visit BMO

Posted on 15 May 2008 by Scott Ferguson

Toronto FC and Columbus Crew will renew hostilities in the Trillium Cup on Saturday, with Toronto getting their chance to host their newfound rivals after a 2-0 loss in Columbus to begin the season on March 29th.

Since then, both sides have been in top form early this season after a momentary hiccup. Both sides lost their next match but Columbus have since recorded five straight wins while Toronto have gone on to a 3-1-0 record.

They’re not alone, however, with six of the seven Eastern Conference sides sitting at .500 or above. A win for Toronto on Saturday would put them five points back of Columbus at the league summit but with a game in hand and restore hope of winning the inaugural Trillium Cup.

The competition, which will be decided on the teams’ three regular-season encounters this season, will conclude later this season at BMO Field. If Columbus win the upcoming clash they’ll have an unassailable lead in the Trillium Cup standings despite facing another trip to Toronto on September 13th.

A win for the Crew would also represent Toronto’s first home defeat of the season. The draw with New York two weeks ago ruined an 100% record at BMO Field but John Carver’s men have yet to taste defeat since their home opener in April.

If the wheels are going to come off Columbus’ excellent league run, BMO Field may be the place for it. The typically buoyant home crowd will be in full voice on Saturday, with the burgeoning rivalry between both sets of fans exacerbated by the large amounts of Toronto fans who made the trip to Columbus earlier this year.

Injuries certainly haven’t helped Crew manager Sigi Schmid, with Duncan Oughton, Adam Moffat and Stefan Miglioranzi all sidelined for Saturday’s encounter.

Once again, Toronto aren’t reporting any injuries, a remarkable turnaround from last season and a testament to the physical training methods of the club’s new fitness coach John Winsper.

Joining the former Newcastle physio last week were staff members Nick Dasovic and Chris Cummins, reported on ASN last month and just recently made official by TFC.

One player that will hope to make a difference on the turf at BMO is Robbie Rogers, the most recent MLS Player of the Week based on his two goals in Columbus’ 3-2 win in San Jose last weekend. Argentine midfielder-forward Guillermo Barros-Schelotto was also on target for Schmid’s men, who will travel to Toronto as the team to beat in MLS.

With a clean injury list, Toronto’s selection dilemma lies in who to start up front. Danny Dichio has a goal to his credit this season but has been lonely up front in a 4-5-1 formation, and with four more games in two weeks following Saturday’s clash, Carver may be looking to reap the benefits of squad rotation.

Jeff Cunningham and Andrea Lombardo have been restricted to substitute appearances this season but could see starting time sooner rather than later, with Toronto balancing MLS play with their first Canada Cup appearance in Montreal on the 27th.

Amado Guevara, Rohan Ricketts and Laurent Robert are likely to reprise their roles as an attacking midfield trident for Toronto. None of the trio were TFC players yet during the club’s trip to Columbus in March.

Another new arrival has been defender Olivier Tébily, but the Ivorian has seen his playing time blocked by the stunning turnaround in Marco Vélez’s performances at the heart of Toronto’s back line. The Puerto Rican scored a free header against New York, with his own upturn in fortunes helping the club to a goals-against record of just 1 in their three home matches so far in 2008.

Between the sticks

Greg Sutton is set to start his fifth straight match for the club, having recovered from the trauma of being passed over in the early-season trip to Columbus in favour of draft pick Brian Edwards. The two straight clean sheets he recorded in the run-up to New York’s vist early this month pushed him past Kenny Stamatopoulos as the all-time shutout leader in Toronto’s short existence.

Crew stopper Will Hesmer

Will Hesmer has started every match for the Crew this season, conceding nine goals but making the difference on numerous occasions for his side. The 26-year-old made several important stops, including a penalty save, against Toronto in March.

A win against Columbus would improve Toronto’s home record to 3-1-0 ahead of another revenge mission next week, the visit of D.C. United to BMO Field in the last of a five-game home stand for Toronto. United were 4-1 winners at RFK Stadium in the second game of Toronto’s season, a match that marked not only Laurent Robert’s debut but Maurice Edu’s late consolation goal, a strike that seems to have marked a turning point for TFC this season.

Toronto FC vs. Columbus will kick off at 4 PM EST on CBC in Canada. Visit here for the Crew’s perspective.

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TFC hit Thursday primetime

Posted on 01 May 2008 by Scott Ferguson

Toronto FC enter the third of a five-game home stand tonight against Red Bull New York, hoping to enjoy the home comforts that have seen Laurent Robert and Amado Guevara lead the reds to a 100% home record early in the 2008 season.

Saturday’s win over Kansas City was a history-maker for TFC, both the first time the club had surpassed a .500 record and notched three straight wins. Amado Guevara’s brace was also the first in club history.

Goalkeeper Greg Sutton is enjoying a hot streak of his own, having hit form recently albeit with the help of his backline. While Sutton was largely faultless in the six goals the team conceded in their last two away games, he’s since notched two straight clean sheets and will be confident of a third against New York.

Toronto are still reporting a clean bill of health, with Ivorian defender Olivier Tébily expected to make an appearance at some point in the match. For coach John Carver, his selection headaches are of the right kind, with centerback Marco Vélez, much maligned in the early season, showing an improved defensive awareness in front of the home fans.

For Guevara, New York’s visit represents a chance to play against the organization that he won Major League Soccer’s MVP award with in 2004. While the current season may be in its infancy, Guevara has been showing signs of that form early in his Toronto career. TFC are 3 and 0 with the Honduran in their lineup.

“I don’t see it as revenge,” Guevara told reporters through a translator in a MLSnet.com conference call this week. “That’s the past. I’m enjoying my return to the league, and I know this league treats me very well. I’m calm. I don’t see this as revenge but rather a return.”

New York and boss Juan Carlos Osorio are sweating on the fitness of Juan Pablo Angel. The ex-Aston Villa frontman scored a curling free kick in his last visit to BMO Field and forms an ideal foil to strike partner Jozy Altidore.

Ex-Toronto FC fullback Kevin Goldthwaite is another question mark for RBNY, with the American trying to shake off a back strain in the buildup to Thursday night’s encounter. Despite his short stay in Toronto, Goldthwaite is remembered fondly at BMO Field, having scored the franchise’s first ever “game-winning goal” in last May’s 3-1 win over Chicago Fire.

If there’s one man suffering from Toronto’s renaissance this season, it’s American striker Jeff Cunningham. Carver’s reliance on a 4-5-1 with Danny Dichio as a lone striker has left Cunningham — who has 97 career strikes in MLS — reduced to a substitute role as of late.

Cunningham’s speed coming off the bench has allowed the Reds to stretch the opposition defense at a crucial point in the game, but fans have started to question whether the striker will be happy with the bit-part role allowed to him.

“There’s been rumors out there about him being traded,” Carver told MLSNet. “That’s not coming from me. When Jeff’s ready to be traded, I’ll tell you, and I’ll tell him first. But as it stands at the moment, Jeff’s a big part of this club… He’s just got to be patient.”

With another sell-out crowd expected and an international television audience, Toronto will be hoping to raise their game once again against the Red Bulls, the same side who fell 2-1 at BMO in the Reds’ last win of 2007. This year’s return fixture can be seen on ESPN2 from 7 o’ clock PM.

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League leaders visit BMO

Posted on 25 April 2008 by Scott Ferguson

Toronto FC will welcome table-topping Kansas City Wizards to BMO Field on Saturday afternoon, the second in a five-game home stand for the Canadian club.

BMO

The Reds’ fans will hope for a repeat of another occasion when the league leaders came to town — last year’s 4-0 drubbing of FC Dallas at the hands of a surging Toronto. Things are unlikely to be so easy this time around, however, with Wizards keeper Kevin Hartman in imperious form to start the campaign.

Last season’s corresponding fixture was the stadium opener at BMO Field, when Eddie Johnson spoiled the party with a late goal to sink Toronto. The American striker has since moved on to Fulham in England, however, and John Carver’s Toronto side will be confident to get on the scoresheet this time.

Indeed, since being shutout in Columbus on the season opener, Toronto have scored in three straight matches, with one-goal games coming on either side of a three-goal outburst in Los Angeles a fortnight ago. Five different players have hit the net for TFC, with the strike force of Danny Dichio and Jeff Cunningham each looking to add to their single tally so far.

Toronto have looked a different side from last season, and they’ll need to keep it up, having gained just a single point from their three meetings with Kansas City last year. Carver’s 4-5-1 formation may leave the lone frontman isolated at times, but the young side packed the middle and managed to keep a clean sheet against Real Salt Lake last week after going 1-0 up in the first half.

As with any second year club, Toronto must be patient as their new signings gel and begin to recognize each other’s strengths — and weaknesses. In order to shore up what looked like a leaky defence in a 4-1 loss at D.C. United and the 3-2 win in LA, the club has brought in veteran defender Olivier Tébily. The Frenchman has been training with the side for a number of weeks and may suit up for Saturday’s clash.

For their part, Kansas City are on a run of six straight away games. Curt Onalfo’s side began their road trip in the best way with a 1-0 win in Chicago last week, moving them to the top of the MLS standings. Designated player Claudio Lopez has been in great form for the Wizards, and it was his pinpoint assist at Toyota Park that allowed Jack Jewsbury to score the game’s only goal after four minutes.

In goal, Hartman recorded his second straight shutout and the 70th in his MLS career, an impressive total that makes him the all-time league leader.

Toronto are reporting a clean bill of health, while for Kansas City, Davy Arnaud looks set to miss out with a hamstring problem. Argentine maestro Carlos Marinelli may yet be declared fit as he looks to shake off a groin strain.

A home win on Saturday would set a new record for consecutive victories for Toronto, put them above .500 for the first time in club history, and make it two for two so far in their five-game run at BMO Field.

A slow start last season, coupled with a midseason collapse that wasn’t helped by an injury bug, put paid to any hopes of a playoff run in TFC’s inaugural campaign. This year, an unbeaten start to life at fortress BMO may be what the club needs to give their fans the playoff game in Toronto they so desperately want.

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Home opener looms, roster taking shape

Posted on 15 April 2008 by Scott Ferguson

Toronto FC waived defender Andrew Boyens on Tuesday, freeing up an international roster spot on transfer deadline day. Unattached French defender Olivier Tébily is still rumored to be on TFC’s radar, as the ex-Birmingham stopper would bolster a central defensive unit consisting of Marco Vélez, Tyrone Marshall and draft picks Julius James and Pat Phelan.

The back line has hardly inspired confidence in their first three Major League Soccer matches as a unit, conceding eight goals including a clumsy penalty against LA Galaxy on Sunday. The side’s offensive output in California was enough to steal three points, however, and the crowd at BMO Field will welcome the side home as returning heroes after their 3-2 win in Los Angeles.

While Director of Soccer Mo Johnston and head coach John Carver were slow to bring in new faces over the offseason, they’ve come thick and fast in recent weeks, with the team’s poor performance in Columbus seemingly enough to spur on the signings of midfielders Laurent Robert, Amado Guevara and Rohan Ricketts. Both Robert, who had one game under his belt already, and Guevara were impressive in the LA win. Guevara set up Danny Dichio for the opening goal and Robert notched two assists in the course of the match, including a pinpoint pass for Jeff Cunningham to win the ball and finish past Steve Cronin late on.

Strikers Dichio, Cunningham and Jarrod Smith were all on the mark on Sunday, but fans are still hoping to see a young striker recruited in time for next week’s home game against Kansas City Wizards. Simon Lynch, the Scottish forward who was born in Montreal, has spent time with the Queensland Roar in Australia and would not count as an international on the Toronto roster. He has been rumoured to be a target for TFC.

As long as Dichio and Cunningham stay healthy, the front line has ample backup in Smith and Andrea Lombardo, but the starting duo could only garner 33 appearances between them in an injury-plagued 2007. Accordingly, ex-Newcastle United physio Paul Winsper has been brought in as a strength and conditioning coach, and his expertise appeared to show as Toronto stayed the sharper side in the California sun against Los Angeles.

Lombardo, the Canadian under-23 international, showed promise last season but may have been forced into extended first-team action too soon by the raft of injuries that faced Toronto. The Atalanta youth product has had success with Canada’s under-20 team but was largely restricted toto substitute appearances for Canada’s Olympic side in Beijing 2008 qualifying earlier this year.

With Toronto’s midfield finally set, the last pieces of the puzzle might consist in a starting centerback and more depth in the forward line, but it remains unlikely that Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, the club’s owners, will use their Designated Player spot in 2008. With five straight home games on the horizon and just three points under their belt thus far, TFC’s notorious home advantage will have to serve them well in the coming weeks. The Reds wrap up their home stand on May 21st with a chance to exact revenge on D.C. United for the 4-1 drubbing they suffered at RFK Stadium last weekend.

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TFC, new signings head to Hollywood circus

Posted on 11 April 2008 by Scott Ferguson

Toronto FC’s 0 and 2 start to the 2008 Major League Soccer season has some fans looking angrily back towards last year’s inaugural campaign, where they lost their first four matches going scoreless in the process. A 2-0 loss in Chivas last year was followed by a 4-0 rout in New England, and it was deja vu this year, with the club falling by a deuce in Columbus and looking set to lose by four at DC United. There was one crucial difference, however, as Maurice Edu popped up at the death to send a looping header past United keeper Zach Wells to make it 4-1 — a minor blip on the scoresheet, perhaps, but a moment that could resonate with the confidence of Edu and his TFC teammates.

Ahead of Sunday’s visit to LA Galaxy, Edu, who was last season’s rookie of the year, will be joined in the midfield by two new arrivals. Laurent Robert joined the club in time to take part in the DC loss and looked bright, but it was a case of being the best of a bad bunch against the CONCACAF Champions’ Cup semifinalists. Another attacking player, Amado Guevara, has been signed in time for the LA trip and is likely to slot in at the head of a five-man midfield with Edu and Carl Robinson behind him.

The Honduran midfielder, 2005 league MVP with New York Red Bull, has been playing in his native country with Motagua after falling out with Chivas USA management at the start of last season. While his temperament means that the top MLS clubs weren’t lining up to re-sign the enigmatic midfielder, the BMO Field faithful are hoping that a sold out stadium with a passionate fan base will bring the best out of Guevara. Until his signing, the club were lacking options in midfield, forced to play either a flat four or a five-man line with youngster Tyler Hemming in the center.

With the midfield set, the only question marks for the Reds relates to the starting positions at the front and back. Head coach John Carver will have to choose between Jeff Cunningham’s pace and Danny Dichio’s power at the business end of the pitch, while defenders Tyrone Marshall and Marco Velez weren’t at their best in Washington, conceding two goals in the first six minutes. The alternative, New Zealand international defender Andrew Boyens, doesn’t seem to have made an impression on Carver in preseason despite a fine 2007 campaign.
More signings could be on the way to Toronto. Former Birmingham defender Olivier Tébily has been spotted on trial in the Queen City having dinner with Robert. The French defender would offer much-needed stability to the back line, and will have been hoping to impress Carver along with fellow triallist Rohan Ricketts. The ex-Barnsley winger would fill a gap on the right side of TFC’s midfield.

For Los Angeles, starting a season with a healthy David Beckham is better than any new signing, although new arrival Carlos Ruiz has provided much-needed ammunition up front. Along with Landon Donovan, Beckham struck against traditional rivals San Jose Earthquakes last week to earn the club’s first win of 2008. LA will be looking to make it two wins from two at the Home Depot Center and pass the .500 mark after starting the season with a 4-0 loss in Colorado.

Each squad has one player who might have some inside information on the opposition. Canadian Kevin Harmse was a regular in Ruud Gullit’s Galaxy squad last season, the hard-tackling foil to Beckham and Donovan’s flair. He joined up with Toronto in the offseason, and while Harmse will miss out on the LA game after his ejection in DC, his knowledge of their tactics will almost certainly have been utilized by the TFC management. Striker Edson Buddle went in the opposite direction early last season, and much has changed at both clubs since his move, but he knows first-hand what it’s like playing alongside Danny Dichio and — from this brief spell in New York — Amado Guevara.

Much is at stake for both sides, with Toronto eager to enter their home opener on April 19th with at least one point in the bag. Finding a winning momentum early on could be the difference in TFC’s playoff hunt. For manager Gullit and his Los Angeles side, every home game means pressure to succeed in front of the HDC crowd and the world media. Much will depend on how quickly the Canadian club’s new signings adjust to life in their new surroundings, with a trial by fire awaiting them in LA.

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The Trillium Cup

Posted on 28 March 2008 by ASN Staff

The Columbus Crew and Toronto FC have officially named their competition the Trillium Cup, which refers to the official flower of the province of Ontario and official wildflower of the State of Ohio. Selected through on-line balloting, the Trillium Cup will be awarded annually to the winner of the regular-season series between the two clubs.

In addition, the mayors of the two cities, Michael B. Coleman of Columbus and David Miller of Toronto, have agreed to a friendly wager on the first game of this season’s inaugural Trillium Cup, Saturday’s season opener between the clubs at Crew Stadium. The stakes of the wager are simple: the losing mayor will don the jersey of the winning team for a public photo opportunity.

“The Columbus Crew has been a great part of Columbus’ rich sports tradition and I have full faith that Coach Schmid and our team will start the season with a win,” said Mayor Coleman. “I look forward to seeing Mayor Miller in the colors of the Black & Gold.”

The clubs unveiled plans to name the new competition in February and fans of both teams were encouraged to log on and submit names on-line. From the five finalists selected – Cross Border Cup, Great Lakes Cup, Capital City Cup, Trillium Cup and The Buck-Loonie – Trillium Cup was the winner and Great Lakes Cup was the runner-up. Trillium is a genus of flowering perennial herbs of the lily family, whose flowers have a cluster of three petals at the top of the stem.

“The fans of both teams have selected an extremely unique and distinctive name for the cup and I am certain that as the rivalry grows, the Trillium Cup will be a sought-after prize for the clubs and their fans alike,” said Crew General Manager Mark McCullers. “We sincerely appreciate Mayor Coleman’s support and faith in us as we enter the competition’s first game. I have assured him that we do not intend to let him down and will do everything in our power to ensure that he does not have to wear that unfashionable red jersey, even for an uncomfortable moment. In all seriousness, the participation of the Mayors adds another dimension to our burgeoning rivalry and we welcome their continued interest and involvement.”

The winner of the annual competition will be determined by total points in the regular-season series. The teams play three times this year, after playing three times last year – in which the Crew went 2-0-1 – but that will not necessarily always be the case. If the teams are tied on total points, league tiebreaking procedures for playoff berths or positions will be used.

The Eastern Conference rivals open the 2008 season against one another on Saturday (March 29) at Crew Stadium. The game kicks off at 4 p.m. and will be attended by more than 2,000 traveling Toronto fans. The Crew will then make two trips to BMO Field in Toronto, Saturday, May 17, and Saturday, Sept. 13.

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