No goals in friendly

Edson Buddle of Toronto FC and Rui Costa of Benfica clash during second half action at BMO field on...

Edson Buddle of Toronto FC and Rui Costa of Benfica clash during second half action at BMO field on Wednesday. (Sun Media/Veronica Henri)

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:52 AM ET

Jeff Cunningham looked up at the party going on in the metal stands of BMO Field last night and could only shake his head in astonishment.

After travelling all day from Salt Lake City, the newest member of Toronto FC stepped out of the tunnel leading to the emerald pitch and immediately was blown away by the festivities and the excitement generated by the crowd. The songs. The chants. The multi-coloured banners. And all for a friendly against Portuguese giant Benfica.

"At that point, I just looked over to one of the boys and said: 'This is the atmosphere the game was meant to be played in,' " Cunningham said afterward.

Acquired Tuesday from Real Salt Lake for forward Alecko Eskandarian and a first-round Major League Soccer Superdraft pick in 2008, Cunningham, the league's fourth all-time leading goal scorer with 93, was slated to see action in the second half against Benfica.

But a "slight knock," as he called it, kept him out of the at-times entertaining 0-0 draw between his new club and the prestigious visitors.

"I'll be ready to face Columbus on Saturday," Cunningham, 30, promised.

Toronto FC coach Mo Johnston started eight regulars last night, but had replaced several of them with reserves by the time the final whistle blew.

Benfica, meanwhile, played many of its starters for the majority of the game including well-known international Rui Costa, who came off the pitch in the 86th minute clapping his hands in tribute to the crowd.

Costa, like Cunningham, was impressed with the reception the fans bestowed on the players.

"It's always great to be acknowledged like that," Costa said through an interpreter.

Costa was a member of the 2005 AC Milan squad that blew a 3-0 second-half lead en route to losing the Champions League final to Liverpool. Little wonder he spent yesterday afternoon glued to the tube, watching his former team make up for that collapse to win the 2007 championship over Liverpool by a 2-1 margin.

"Revenge," Costa said. "I'm happy for them."

Asked if he might finish his career in MLS, as will David Beckham, the 35-year-oldCosta laughed and said: "Too old."

After a moribund first half, the final 45 minutes held plenty of excitement. Ronnie O'Brien and Danny Dichio had the best chances for Toronto while Benfica striker Manu was thwarted twice.

While some patrons shelled out a whopping $275 a pop for a ticket, an impressive red-clad leather-lunged crowd of 18,730 -- many of them Benfica fans -- still showed up.

"Listen, it's a big six-figure number to bring a team like Benfica here," Tom Anselmi, vice-president of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd., said. "We haven't heard any complaints from our season-ticket holders."


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