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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