Strike force shows signs of life

STEVEN SANDOR -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:51 AM ET

Over the last decade, I can't think of a better one-two striker combo than Arsenal's combo of Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp.

The Dutch Master could provide perfectly timed passes or hold up the ball, while Henry used his ridiculous sprinter speed to latch onto the service his teammate provided. Since Bergkamp retired, the Gunners have struggled to find Henry a new partner.

It's a bit much to compare Toronto FC's new pairing of Danny Dichio and the newly acquired Jeff Cunningham to Bergkamp and Henry. But, in TFC's 2-2 draw Saturday with Columbus, we finally saw glimpses of a TFC duo who could work off each other.

Cunningham, who has 93 career goals is an MLS poor-man's version of Henry; a man who can outrun defenders even with the ball at his feet. He cost TFC a first-round draft pick and striker Alecko Eskandarian, a man who would rather take on four defenders in a hopeless cause rather than pass to an open teammate.

Dichio uses his height to knock down long balls and is an excellent one-touch passer. Cunningham can elude and/or outrun defenders.

Case in point: Toronto's first goal of the game in Columbus saw Dichio come down with a long goal kick and then find Cunningham. The new man used a quick first step to find space, only to give the ball back to Dichio, who placed a one-time shot perfecly into the corner of the goal. Cunningham used his speed for three more chances on goal, including a shot off the post and another that required a great save from Crew keeper Andy Gruenebaum.

He didn't find the mark, but there's no reason to doubt that many goals will come. And, to be fair, that was never a feeling anyone would get from Eskandarian.

When Cunningham watched Dichio play a half in the 0-0 draw with Benfica last week, he knew that they could work well together.

"Dichio, how tall is he? (Six-foot-three, actually.) He has got great technique for a big man," said Cunningham. "He is very mobile for a big man. He's very sound and very knowledgeable of the game. He will take a lot of the pressure off of me by being that big and technical in front of goal."

Cunningham wears no. 93 on his jersey, but hopes it will be temporary as he changes his shirt number to match his number of career MLS goals. In fact, he joked that Toronto FC should lobby FIFA to allow three-digit numbers once he hits goal No.100.

Judging by how good he and Dichio looked in their first game together, that lobbying effort should be coming along pretty soon.

24 hours sports editor Steven Sandor has written about the Beautiful Game for numerous publications around the globe. The Red Card will appear every Wednesday in 24 hours. steven.sandor@tor.sunpub.com


Videos

Photos