Tag Archive | "Dichio"

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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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