He's Mista offence

DAVE FULLER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:44 PM ET

They don’t mention his name in the same breath as Thierry Henry — the superstar Frenchman who just signed with the New York Red Bulls — but Mista is, or was, quite a talent in Spain.

He scored 19 goals for Valencia during the 2003-04 season, the same year Valencia blanked Olympique de Marseille, 2-0, to win the UEFA Cup. He potted a beauty in that game, too.

But time, or something else, has eroded those skills to the point where Miguel Angel Ferrer Martinez was dropped by his most recent Spanish team, Deportivo La Coruna, and now he finds himself, like Henry, playing Major League Soccer.

Mista is expected to make his debut for Toronto F.C., a team with scoring woes of its own, Saturday against the Philadelpia Union at brand new PPL Park.

While Toronto coach Preki doubted Mista would start the game, injuries to midfielder Martin Saric (quad muscle) and forward O’Brian White (week-long flu), suggest the 31-year-old Spaniard will play a lot against the Union.

Chad Barrett, whose recent scoring funk mirrors his team, is looking forward to working with the newcomer.

“Mista plays a very attractive style of soccer," Barrett said Thursday after the team’s work-out at Cherry Beach. "He's very Spanish. He doesn't seem to move around a lot, but he seems to do a whole lot. He's great with his feet, carrying the ball. Great finisher. I don't think he's finished the way he wants to, so he's working on that.

“I know if he starts, or comes in, he's going to give us a big boost.”

The Reds, who beat Philadelphia 2-1 in their April 15 home opener at BMO Field, has 17 goals in 15 games — eight of those from 2010 all-star midfielder DeWayne De Rosario. Barrett is next with four.

“That’s something we’re trying to right, right now, trying to get more creative — trying to be better with the ball and better with the final pass, and the final touch.”

Of course, few teams play better defence than Toronto, which is why, despite a lack of offence, the Reds are undefeated in their past eight MLS outings. Tack on those Nutrilite championship wins, and that impressive streak gets stretched to 11.

“One thing we've improved on enormously is our defence,” said midfielder Julian de Guzman. “We’re one of the toughest teams to score against. We've got a lot of clean sheets. That's something we’'ve been working at the entire season.

“But now that we have one of the most comfortable defences in the league, another thing we should be working on is goal scoring. With additions (like Mista) that will definitely help our game.”

Preki expects a battle from Philadelphia, who blanked Glasgow Celtic 1-0 in a friendly on Wednesday. The Union's also jacked about their new, soccer specific park, which opened June 27.

“They’re a tough little team. They're very active when they have the ball. They move around, they cause you trouble,” the coach said.

De Rosario, who has been running a kids soccer clinic in Malvern all week, as well as practising with his own team, was impressed by Philadelphia's spunk in that hard-fought meeting in April. The Union played nearly half the game a man short after Danny Califf was red-carded for striking de Guzman with a flying elbow.

“They’re a different team than the one that lost to us,” De Rosario said. "We're definitely looking at an intense game and we have to be ready to set the tone early.

“It's going to be hot and humid in Philadelphia, so we have to keep possession of the ball and take our chance when we get it.”


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