Tag Archive | "Carver"

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Toronto slips at home in battle of FCs

Posted on 04 August 2008 by Scott Ferguson

Kenny Cooper put Toronto FC to the sword on Sunday afternoon, scoring two late goals for FC Dallas to send John Carver’s side to their first Major League Soccer loss at home in 2008. TFC are falling fast after a great start to the season and now look likely to miss out on the playoffs unless they can turn things around.

Click here for our Dallas correspondent Phillip Woodruff’s take on Sunday’s game.

The sun was bearing down on BMO Field on a hot summer afternoon, fostering a sluggish start to the game from both sides. Toronto were taking the initiative through Rohan Ricketts and Jim Brennan’s overlapping runs down the left flank, but the FC Dallas defenders were able to keep goalkeeper Dario Sala from too much trouble in the early stages.

FCD coach Schellas Hyndman was forced into an early change in just the 6th minute, bringing in Michael Dello-Russo for midfielder Marcelo Saragosa, who was forced to leave the game with a calf strain.

The best chance of the first half came from Toronto’s centerback Marco Vélez, who found himself alone on the end of a Laurent Robert corner in the 19th minute but could only hit a bouncing shot straight at Sala.

Just moments later, Vélez made contact with Sala jumping for another corner, leaving the Dallas keeper winded and needing a few minutes, enough time for referee Baldomero Toledo to hand Vélez a yellow card. Replays showed that the contact appeared incidental at worst and hardly malicious.

The second half started lively, with both sides eager to make the breakthrough. Just after the hour mark, Bruno Guarda entered the game for Dallas and Tyler Hemming replaced Julius James in the Toronto lineup, instantly making his mark with several darting runs down the right flank.

It marked an interesting turnaround for the London, Ontario native, as Hemming had left the club earlier this season to pursue opportunites in Europe. With Jarrod Smith’s promotion to the senior roster, however, Hemming was able to rejoin the club as a senior development player and has made the most of that opportunity.

New signing Chad Barrett came close for the Reds in the 69th minute, collecting a headed clearance in the area and lashing a shot over Sala’s goal. The former Chicago striker appeared to have strained a calf muscle in the play and was substituted for Jarrod Smith after another lengthy delay.

The game’s real talking point came at the turn of the 79th minute, however. Kenny Cooper was looking for space on the left side when the whistle blew for an apparent off-the-ball incident in the 18-yard-box involving Amado Guevara and Pablo Ricchetti. Guevara sent the Argentine tumbling to the ground and was given a straight red card while Ricchetti tended a bloody nose.

photo credit: Chris Hazard

The foul took place in the penalty area, leaving FCD with an opportunity to take the lead from 12 yards. Cooper stutter-stepped to the spot and easily sent Sutton the wrong way, taking the lead and seemingly condemning 10-man Toronto to a first league defeat at home this season.

Toronto’s players were incensed with the call, with captain Brennan leading the protests and subsequently booked for dissent. Vélez contested another seemingly routine throw-in decision just minutes later too vigorously for Toledo, who issued the Puerto Rican his second yellow card, reducing TFC to nine men.

Amid coach John Carver’s protests, Toledo made his way to the sidelines and bizarrely sent off Toronto physio Carmelo Lobue.

Five minutes of stoppage time was greeted with ironic applause from the home fans, but their enthusiasm was short-lived as Cooper struck just seconds after the 90th minute mark. The free-scoring striker found space with two defenders ahead of him and struck a 30-yard shot at Sutton, who dove to his right but couldn’t keep out the bouncing ball.

Again, the Canadian goalkeeper looked as though he should have done better with the chance. The club’s recent streak may have dented Sutton’s confidence and could open the door for American prospect Brian Edwards to get the call in Colorado on Saturday.

Photo credit: Tim Drodge

Toronto’s ill-discipline may have done them in once again, but club captain Jim Brennan had other ideas.

“I think we’ve done alright, but the game got spoiled a little bit,” he said afterwards. “It was an entertaining game, we had them pinned in the second half there and we had a great chance, we felt we were going to score. Then, certain things happen and it wrecks the game, and that’s what happened today.”

FC Dallas defender and Canadian international Adrian Serioux had his own interpretation of events:

“It’s always good to come back and play in front of family and friends and get a result that we needed badly. You know it’s a great atmosphere and I’m sure the fans were behind their team, but when certain players on your team aren’t disciplined, as they were tonight, it’s costly, and that’s what happened to them.”

Coach Carver was reserved in his criticism of the officials, preferring to focus instead on the roster problems affecting Toronto.

“It’s frightening,” he told reporters after the game. “We only had 5 on the bench. There’s a reason for that, they’ve got to prove to me that they’re good enough to play and get on the bench… I think we might have to get (Academy coach and former Canadian international) Nick Dasovic to put his boots on!”

Carver refused to blame Barrett for the team’s scoring woes.

“He did some good things… I think he’s more of a poacher, he’s not a spectacular goal-man… The more he gets to know the guys the more he’ll get on, and I think he’s got goals in him. He needs to work on his fitness.”

With Sunday’s defeat, Toronto sit precariously in a three-way tie for fifth place in the Eastern Conference, one point outside of the playoff reckoning with a game in hand over Los Angeles Galaxy.

The top two sides in each division will be seeded against the next-best four teams regardless of conference, leaving Toronto in a cross-division battle with the Galaxy, Chivas USA, Kansas City Wizards, Red Bull New York, Colorado Rapids and even outsiders San Jose Earthquakes for the last playoff spot. Just five points separate the eight-placed Galaxy from historical rivals San Jose in last place, who stole a 3-2 win over David Beckham and company on the weekend.

Toronto’s next chance to close the gap comes at Dick’s Sporting Goods park in Colorado on Saturday, a potentially must-win game for either side as they try to secure playoff action after missing out last season.

Match Facts

FC Dallas (6-6-7) vs. Toronto FC (6-8-4)
August 3, 2008 — BMO Field

Scoring Summary:
FCD — Kenny Cooper 12 (penalty kick [Ricchetti]) 81
FCD — Kenny Cooper 13 (unassisted) 90+1

FC Dallas Dario Sala, Drew Moor, Aaron Pitchkolan, Blake Wagner, Adrian Serioux, Andre Rocha (Bruno Guarda 64), Eric Avila, Pablo Ricchetti, Marcelo Saragosa (Michael Dello-Russo 7), Kenny Cooper, Dominic Oduro (Abe Thompson 74).

Substitutes Not Used: Andrew Daniels, Mike Graczyk, Jamie Watson, Chase Wileman

Toronto FC — Greg Sutton, Julius James (Tyler Hemming 65), Tyrone Marshall, Marco Velez, Jim Brennan, Rohan Ricketts, Amado Guevara, Carl Robinson, Laurent Robert, Chad Barrett (Jarrod Smith 70), Jeff Cunningham (Kevin Harmse 87).

Substitutes Not Used: Brian Edwards, Tyler Rosenlund

Misconduct Summary:
TOR — Marco Velez (caution; Reckless Foul) 27
DAL — Andre Rocha (caution; Reckless Foul) 57
TOR — Amado Guevara (ejection; Violent Conduct) 79
TOR — Jim Brennan (caution; Dissent) 81
TOR — Marco Velez (ejection; Second Caution) 84

Referee: Baldomero Toledo
Referee’s Assistants: C.J. Morgante; Adam Wienckowski
4th official: Jorge Gonzalez
Time of game: 1:56
Attendance: 20,247
Weather: Sunny -and- 77 degrees

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Reds misfire at home

Posted on 19 July 2008 by Scott Ferguson

Toronto FC could only draw visiting San Jose Earthquakes 0-0 on Saturday, the fifth straight game at home they’ve failed to win. Kansas City, Vancouver Whitecaps and friendly opponents Pachuca and Independiente have all avoided defeat at BMO Field in the last month.

It was a listless performance by the two youngest teams in Major League Soccer thanks to a hot, humid afternoon at Exhibition Place stifling what little creative play was on offer.

Toronto boss John Carver made a couple of changes from the squad that fell 2-1 in Chicago last week, with youngsters Tyler Rosenlund and Abdus Ibrahim coming into the starting lineup. San Jose, coached by assistant Ian Russell after Frank Yallop’s suspension last week, brought new signings Francisco Lima, Scott Sealy and Darren Huckerby straight into the team.

As early as the ninth minute, Toronto had a “goal” ruled out long after the whistle had gone on an apparent offside by Ibrahim. Replays showed that the assistant to referee Paul Ward was mistaken.

It was midfield ace Amado Guevara who had the best chance of the first half, blazing over an open goal when Quakes goalkeeper Joe Cannon could only punch Marvell Wynne’s low cross into the Honduran’s path. Guevara was doing his best to bring the game to life with neat passing and a touch of flair but couldn’t keep the game from going into the break scoreless.

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The muggy conditions ensured that the second half started just as the first had ended. The game’s major talking point came in the 69th minute when Ibrahim was hauled down in the 18-yard-box trying to get on the end of a cross. It looked like typical penalty area argy-bargy on second viewing, but Toronto were happy for the rare opportunity to test Cannon.

Guevara had hardly put a foot wrong all game but with the weight of the stadium on his shoulders, his effort from the spot was blocked with relative ease. The shot had power but was almost straight at the waiting Cannon, reminiscent of Collin Samuel’s wasted penalty in the season opener at Columbus, Toronto’s only previous trip to the spot all season.

Jim Cunningham was brought on seconds later to try and bring some bite to the Toronto attack, but it was too late for the 99-goal man to make an impact on the game.

With crucial matches approaching in the Canadian Championship and MLS in the coming weeks, John Carver will have to bring some bite into the Toronto attack. Tuesday brings the visit of Montreal Impact, with a win vital for TFC to claim the Voyageurs Cup and a spot in CONCACAF Champions League qualifying.

TFC may have become overconfident at home having gone undefeated at fortress BMO in MLS play, but with losses in friendly action and the Canadian Championship and two straight 0-0 draws in the league, fans in Toronto have forgotten what its like to see their team win. With more away matches than home ties scheduled for the remainder of the season, more firepower is needed fast before the Reds will have to bid their playoff hopes goodbye.

Match Facts

San Jose Earthquakes (3-9-5) vs. Toronto FC (6-6-4)
July 19, 2008 — BMO Field

Scoring Summary:
San Jose Earthquakes — Joe Cannon, James Riley, Ryan Cochrane, Jason Hernandez, Eric Denton, Francisco Lima (Kelly Gray 63), Ramiro Corrales, Darren Huckerby (Kei Kamara 64), Ronnie O’Brien, Ryan Johnson, Scott Sealy (John Cunliffe 94+).

Substitutes Not Used: Ned Grabavoy, Ivan Guerrero, David Monsalves, Shea Salinas

Toronto FC — Greg Sutton, Marvell Wynne, Tyrone Marshall, Marco Velez, Jim Brennan, Rohan Ricketts, Carl Robinson, Tyler Rosenlund (Jeff Cunningham 70), Laurent Robert, Amado Guevara, Abdus Ibrahim.

Substitutes Not Used: Nana Attakora-Gyan, Brian Edwards, Gabe Gala, Tyler Hemming, Julius James, Jarrod Smith

Misconduct Summary:
TOR — Abdus Ibrahim (caution; Delaying a Restart) 18
SJ — Jason Hernandez (caution; Pushing, Holding) 26

Referee: Paul Ward
Referee’s Assistants: Joe Fletcher; Daniel Belleau
4th official: Steven DePiero
time of game: 1:53
attendance: 20,264
weather: Partly Cloudy -and- 84 degrees

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Toronto look to cause Houston problems

Posted on 06 June 2008 by Scott Ferguson

Toronto FC will take on Houston Dynamo at Robertson Stadium on Sunday night, hoping to keep up an unbeaten record against Dominic Kinnear’s men.

Before TFC brought Major League Soccer north of the border, the Dynamo were the team of choice for many Canadian soccer fans.

National team members Dwayne De Rosario, Pat Onstad and Adrian Serioux were all part of the club’s 2006 MLS Cup-winning squad, with DeRo and Onstad still on Houston’s 2008 roster. Both were a part of Frank Yallop’s San Jose Earthquakes squad prior to their relocation to the Lone Star state.

Jim Brennan and Toronto goalkeeper Greg Sutton will bring insider knowledge of their national teammates to the Robertson Stadium showdown. Brennan will be familiar with De Rosario from Canada duty, while Sutton has emerged as Onstad’s heir-apparent between the posts for the CMNT.

The Houston contingent both played in Canada’s narrow 3-2 defeat to Brazil in Seattle last week before joining up with the Dynamo for Wednesday’s trip to D.C., a match that was ultimately postponed due to heavy rain. After last week’s home win over Los Angeles Galaxy, Toronto’s Canadian duo joined up with the national squad for the midweek clash with Panama in Florida.

International duty has affected Toronto’s roster in recent weeks, with John Carver’s men looking to welcome back defenders Tyrone Marshall and Marco Vélez, the Puerto Rico captain who received a late red card in his side’s 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Amado Guevara’s Honduras.

French winger Laurent Robert was suspended for last week’s game against LA and is likely to take up a starting role against Houston. Robert will resume the wing-swapping with midfielder Rohan Ricketts that has been a trademark of the club’s play so far this season.

For the Dynamo, defender Eddie Robinson is suspended for Sunday’s encounter. Ricardo Clark, returning from international duty of his own with the United States, was one of the stars of last week’s 1-0 home win over Red Bull New York.

“I think our young guys really worked hard… the average age of our midfield was something like 23,” Kinnear told the club’s website after the match. You had Corey (Ashe), Geoff (Cameron), Stuart (Holden) and then Rico (Clark) was the elder statesmen of the group at 25. Just the effort we got from them tonight was great.”

There have been a number of changes at BMO Field since last year, but one thing Toronto will look to carry over is their form against the Dynamo. 2007 saw TFC steal four points against the Men in Orange, recording a 1-0 home win (their first ever league shutout) and a 0-0 draw at Robertson.

While results across the league on Friday and Saturday would have to go their way, Toronto could conceivably finish the weekend atop the Eastern Conference. TFC’s fans won’t be booking their playoff tickets just yet, but the situation in the East represents a far cry from last year’s injury-racked start to life in Major League Soccer, where the Reds finished dead last in the league standings.

Match time: Sunday, June 8th, 8:30 PM

TV: RSN, DK, MLSLIVE.tv, The Score (delayed 9:30 pm).

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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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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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Tébily in at TFC

Posted on 25 April 2008 by Scott Ferguson

Olivier Tébily has been signed by Toronto FC, confirming recent rumours that the French defender was on the verge of putting pen-to-paper with the Major League Soccer side.

The former Birmingham defender has been a regular at TFC training over recent weeks, with head coach John Carver finally getting his man on Thursday afternoon.

“We’re adding another experienced player to the squad,” Carver told the club’s website. “He’s had a good career, especially at Celtic and Birmingham. He’ll definitely improve the team with his versatility, as he can play either in the centre or on the right in the back.”

Tébily was a regular at center back, right back and central midfield for Birmingham over recent years, but he found first-team action difficult to come by in the Blues’ promotion season from the English Championship last year. His last senior appearance in English football came in October of 2006.

The Côte d’Ivoire-born defender’s contract with Birmingham was due to expire in June, but he reached an agreement with the midlands club to release him earlier this year. Tébily will add much-needed depth to the second-year club when Marvell Wynne and Maurice Edu travel to the Olympics in Beijing with the United States under-23 side this summer.

Tébily joins recent additions Laurent Robert and Amado Guevara as one of several new signings under Carver, who is also rumoured to be bringing in a new backroom staff as he looks to make his mark on the Canadian side.

Having already trained with Toronto’s players throughout the last two weeks, Tébily is expected to slot right into the side for Saturday’s match against Kansas City at BMO Field. Stay tuned to ASN for a forthcoming match preview on Friday.

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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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Looking ahead: TFC Season Preview

Posted on 25 March 2008 by Scott Ferguson

Fans of Canada’s sole Major League Soccer franchise may have been hoping for more firepower in their squad ahead of the 2008 season opener, but the truth is that the team has nowhere to go but up.

The 2007 campaign saw TFC finish at the bottom of the league standings but with unprecedented success off the pitch, regularly selling out BMO Field and setting a benchmark in fan support for the rest of the league. With their expansion-season woes behind them, the pressure will be on Toronto to improve on last season’s 25-point mark and to make their debut in the MLS playoffs.

TFC have a new head coach in respected English tactician John Carver and have improved in defence ahead of Saturday’s season-opener at Columbus, but even the most ardent supporter will tell you that their goals for 2008 are modest in comparison to established heavyweights like Houston Dynamo and D.C. United.

The Reds can look to another young club, Chivas USA, as a model for what they hope to accomplish in the coming seasons. In their expansion year in 2005, Chivas struggled and finished dead last in the Western conference. One year later, they had climbed to 3rd in the West and qualified for the playoffs. Last year they stormed to the top of their conference before again losing in the quarterfinals of the MLS Cup. This year, many pundits have identified Chivas as the team to beat in the Western Conference (see ASN’s Chivas season preview here).

Along with general manager Mo Johnston, Carver will be more keen to emulate Chivas’ model rather than that of another 2005 expansion side, Real Salt Lake, who just pipped TFC to 12th place in the overall standings last season. A strong performance on Saturday in Columbus would be the perfect way to start Toronto’s own ascendancy into the MLS elite, while a resounding victory in front of up to 2000 traveling supporters would be a great way to get the fans on Carver’s side.

Greg Sutton will wear the gloves for Toronto FC once again this season, and will be backed up by draft-pick Brian Edwards. Sutton had his critics at the beginning of 2007 but was often hung out to dry by a porous backline. Last season’s on-loan deputy Kenny Stamatopoulos returned to Tromsø I.L. in Norway, a club that has the distinction of being the northernmost top-flight team in world football.

TFC captain Jim Brennan and Todd Dunivant will alternate duties at left back and left midfield, with youngster Gabe Gala expected to build on his cameo appearances last season. For his part, Brennan was optimistic about the coming campaign in a discussion with MLSnet.com.

“I think we’re going to have a very good season,” he told the club’s official website. “We had a taste of MLS last year, and now we have our feet on the ground and we’re looking to take the next step of getting into the playoffs.”

In central defense, Tyrone Marshall and Andrew Boyens are joined by Puerto Rican Marco Vélez and draft picks Julius James and Pat Phelan. Marvell Wynne is expected to take up the right back position once again, and is set to terrorize his left-sided opposition throughout 2008 in between a trip to the Beijing Olympics with USA.

Midfield reinforcements have been recruited in the form of Tyler Rosenlund and ex-LA Galaxy hardman Kevin Harmse, while rumors persist about the status of Amado Guevara and triallists Martin Brittain and Victor Pacheco. In central midfield, Carl Robinson and Maurice Edu will be backed up by the new arrivals as well as youngsters Joey Melo and Tyler Hemming, while Trinidadian veteran Collin Samuel can be deployed on either wing.

Danny Dichio is virtually guaranteed a first-team spot with the club until his retirement, already having gained legend status with the opening goal, red card, and last goal of the 2007 season. Jeff Cunningham is likely to partner him up front, and if both men can stay healthy, the potentially lethal partnership could see Cunningham score his 100th MLS career goal. The American striker is currently four away from a century after just three goals last season, and accordingly, he’ll wear 96 as his shirt number for the 2008 campaign.

After supporting their team through thick and thin (mostly thin) last season, Toronto fans will be backing Cunningham to regain the form that saw him claim the MLS Golden Boot in 2006. With a strong 2008 the goal for everyone associated with TFC, the fans will hope that Cunningham’s biggest worry in a year’s time will be how to reflect 100+ goals in a shirt number.

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