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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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New era at TFC?

Posted on 13 April 2008 by Scott Ferguson

Toronto FC fan sites were flooded with words of praise for the club on Sunday night, as those who weren’t part of the few that travelled to Los Angeles this weekend jumped online to celebrate their club’s first win of 2008. Read the full match report here.

The win gives TFC their first points of 2008, tightening things up in the Eastern conference early on and showing a vast improvement on the side’s 0 and 4 start to last year’s campaign. Three points from as many away matches is a decent return for the Reds, but having lost to two of their Eastern Conference rivals in the past two weeks meant that John Carver had to find a way to motivate his side to earn a result in Los Angeles.

The Galaxy had the best of the early exchanges but Greg Sutton was on hand to deny Landon Donovan on more than one occasion. Danny Dichio scored late in the first half after the Galaxy defence failed to clear a long ball from Guevara, but a lack of composure from the away side seemed to be at fault for Donovan’s quick equalizer. In the second, Jarrod Smith regained the lead for Toronto but a Donovan penalty pegged it back. In the late stages under the California sun, Jeff Cunningham’s late finish made it 3-2, and finally the Reds were able to hold on.

{democracy:4}

Toronto’s recent signings didn’t gel right away, getting overrun at times in the first half, but Greg Sutton’s goalkeeping kept the match in reach for his teammates. A lack of teamwork may have been at fault with Donovan’s instant reply to Dichio’s strike, but new boys Smith and Guevara shone in the second half.

Not only was it Toronto’s second away win in their short history, but this match may have marked a turning point for the young franchise in being the first time they had won largely against the run of play. The smash-and-grab raid reflected the Toronto forwards’ willingness to take their chances, which came with increasing frequency as Laurent Robert and Guevara asserted themselves in the midfield.

The one-touch passing in the side’s build-up to the third goal, after 80 minutes under intense heat, was a joy to watch — for arguably the first time since Toronto’s 4-0 win over FC Dallas last season, they were playing the beautiful game, well, beautifully. Guevara and Maurice Edu in particular were impressive in the center of the park.

One flaw in Toronto’s game was the slack defending from Marco Vélez, who may have lost concentration in the heat when he clumsily handled David Beckham’s cross to concede the penalty from which Donovan scored his second equalizer. Andy Boyens, the Kiwi centerback who made 23 appearances last season, has yet to play this year and is rumoured to be on his way out of the club to make room for the recent senior international signings.

Galaxy fans may have pointed to Cunningham’s manhandling of the last man back just ahead of his goal at the death, but in truth that goal had come just minutes after Beckham was lucky to avoid a call after making contact with a streaking Cunningham just outside the box.

Marvell Wynne covered a lot of ground on the right side and is quickly establishing himself as one of the league’s best fullbacks. Carver will be hard-pressed to adjust to his departure to the Beijing Olympics along with Maurice Edu later this year, with Kevin Harmse and youth player Nana Attakora-Gyan the immediate options to replace Wynne.

With three points in the bag, Toronto will be confident ahead of their home opener against Real Salt Lake on the 19th — but one look at the standings reveals just how competitive the league is. After TFC’s win, only four points separated first from seventh in the Eastern Conference.

Rohan Ricketts has joined up with the squad and may start against Salt Lake, while rumours of Olivier Tébily taking Vélez’s starting spot in the backline before next week persist on fan sites. If the club’s performance against the LA weather, players and arguably the official is anything to go by, they may make a serious push for a debut appearance in the league playoffs come October.

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