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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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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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