It was fitting for Toronto FC to score their first goal against the Chicago Fire in the 24th minute on a day Danny Dichio was honoured by the soccer club.
Nick Labrocca’s assist from the wind suggested some kind of divine intervention.
Even more fitting on a typically blustery Canadian day weather-wise, TFC’s Toronto born and raised contingent stood above the rest.
Young, developing Ontario soccer players coming through the system in the 1990s will have many not-so fond memories of winter, outdoor training with the Provincial teams at Lamport Stadium. This was before King St. West became a trendy destination for transplanted 905ers.
And it was a time where the outdated, rugged stadium was an undesirable locale, despite the soccer.
The stadium — cold, worn-down, and baron — was anything but cozy. And shovelling off the carpet-like turf before winter training sessions left much to be desired.
So on a day, marked by the cold wind causing havoc along the Lakeshore, the Toronto boys were left unfazed. Been there, done that.
Having trained with Dwayne De Rosario in the past during the winter at Lamport and Ivor Wynne Stadium in Hamilton, there’s no weather condition or force of nature that can stop the guy.
In fairness, nothing has fazed De Rosario this season. Banged up last season, De-Ro was never his typical Major League Soccer attacking menacing self.
To that point, before the season, one TFC official told me De-Ro would have to show superior form in 2010 to warrant the wages he commands.
To a person, all will agree, De-Ro has been full value, if not a bargain to this point. It’s actually hard to find any player league-wide that has been more important to his team’s success thus far than De Rosario.
Saturday, the Scarborough native traded goals for assists. His first setup came after shifting from up-front to outside right with the halftime introduction of another longtime Toronto resident, O’Brian White.
It wasn’t just his low-driving ball, finding White on the far post with a gaping net that was special. It was his patience, timing his run and staying wide, giving White the time to find him in an advantageous situation. The quality of passing and the positional discipline made the buildup that much more impressive.
De-Ro’s second assist, a 35-yard ball cutting open Chicago’s defensive line to find Chad Barrett in stride was also of the highest quality.
By the time he came off in 73rd minute, the damage was done.
While recognizing the ever-improving Barrett and White are well-deserved, we’d be remiss not to acknowledge TFC’s local centre-back duo of Nana Attakora and Adrian Cann.
Sure, TFC conceded through a Logan Pause wonder-strike, a sure-shot runaway winner for MLS goal of the week. But Attakora and Cann remained tactically sound, in position to snuff out the Chicago attack in vulnerable positions multiple times.
Chicago’s Patrick Nyarko was a handful for Maksim Usanov after moving from the right to outside left in the second half. Usanov has a perchance to over-commit and Nyarko took advantage.
In fact, the script for Barrett’s 66th-minute and 69th- minute markers could have read much different if it weren’t for Attakora coming to the rescue. Before both goals, Nyarko found space behind Usanov.
Both times, Attakora was there in support, in perfect position to throw water on the Fire attack. And both times, TFC was able to go the other way and score.
Likewise at the back, Cann has been head over heals TFC’s best off-season addition. Cann had been a stabilizing force, influencing the game from a physical perspective. Saturday, Cann made Chicago’s star striker, Brian McBride completely irrelevant.
Last, but certainly not least, Julian de Guzman’s energy and up-tempo style is starting to pay dividends. Noticeably, de Guzman seems to shine more when paired with Amadou Sanyang in the centre of the park.
Both players are similar in their approach and style, making for an intriguing pairing going forward.