Fred scores, Reds don't

FC Danny Dichio gets past DC Devon McTavish during action in the first half between Toronto FC and...

FC Danny Dichio gets past DC Devon McTavish during action in the first half between Toronto FC and DC United at BMO Field August 25th, 2007. (Sun Media/Dave Abel)

BILL LANKHOF, TORONTO SUN

, Last Updated: 10:53 AM ET

A pennant with a skull and crossbones hung near the corner at BMO Field last night.

It was not there to symbolize Toronto FC's hopes, dreams and fate in this, their inaugural season in Major League Soccer.

But it seemed fitting nonetheless.

When they failed to score in the first six minutes it pushed Toronto's goalless stretch to 558 minutes, snapping the league's futility record, set by Real Salt Lake when it went 557 minutes without scoring in 2005.

Toronto ran its winless streak to eight with a frustrating 1-0 loss to D.C. United. This was a fiercely contested affair. Lots of bruised shins and tempers. Toronto FC owned the game. Unfortunately, they didn't own the scoreboard.

Not that they didn't have chances. Toronto had six shots in the first half. D.C. United managed one. Toronto played most of the first half in the D.C. end. But they were unrewarded, trailing 1-0. It has been that kind of season.

Toronto came close in the 70th minute with a three-on-one break. Fans leapt to their feet. Chris Posniak took a pass just inside the box and drilled a shot that deflected off goalkeeper Troy Perkins, who was coming out to challenge. A penalty kick went over a crossbar, leaving coach Mo Johnston standing hands on hips. A picture of unhappiness.

Toronto defender Adam Braz shot a ball through the box, bouncing past the 'keeper but also untouched by any Toronto forwards. And, so it ended. Another night. Another night of defeat.

It looked as if they might avoid becoming the league's poster boys for futility in those first six minutes. Todd Dunivant shot one over the crossbar just two minutes in, eliciting moans from the fans. Colin Samuel had a nice run up the middle but his shot from just outside the box was deflected past a post. Danny Dichio couldn't get his head on a couple of corners.

And, that was it. Toronto FC had its date with infamy. It left them without a goal since July 7, against Chicago -- you know, when Maurice Edu was still a young man and the team's clubhouse didn't yet resemble a MASH unit.

Edu almost put Toronto up near the seventh minute when, unmarked in the box, he sent a superbly struck left footer that failed to hit net only when Perkins got his big mitt in the way. Dichio, at the post, was called for a foul trying to put a head on the rebound.

Johnston not only lost Ronnie O'Brien and Jeff Cunningham this week, he lost his temper, too, when there was a newspaper suggestion that his locker room wasn't exactly located in Happy Valley. There were suggestions of legal repercussions, talk of banishment and dirty looks from players caught between the coach's red glare and a reporter's tape recorder.

You'd think a guy who grew up with the dogs of Fleet St. snapping at his heels would be more thick-skinned. But no. So, it is advisable to record what transpired last night without uttering a discouraging word.

That wasn't easy when, in the seventh minute, D.C. United's Fred slipped down the left side. Let us just say the Reds' defence was left admiring the midway as goalie Ken Stamatopoulos was beaten. But he made a valiant try. So that's a good thing.

With the infidel dogs from D.C. up, 1-0, the Reds did play with some passion and in the 28th minute Edu was barely outrun to a loose bouncing ball in the box by the diving D.C. netminder.

Perhaps the inspiration came with the knowledge that they hadn't won at BMO Field since June 17. They hadn't won in seven games dating back to a 2-1 victory in Salt Lake on July 4. So they faced the prospect of going two full months (their next game is Sept. 8) without scoring a goal.

Stamatopoulos, in the second half, punched a ball from near the goal line preventing a D.C. insurance marker. About 10 minutes in, D.C.'s Bryan Carroll was called for illegal cleat-work on a fallen FC player. Dichio headed the ensuing free kick over the crossbar.

He kicked the back of the netting in disgust.

In the 62nd minute a melee around Stamatopoulos resulted in yellow cards for each team.

So, once again it was left to Johnston to explain that this was like one of those revolutionary five-year building plans bringing to all the believers of the Red Culture equal opportunity to cheer, a chicken in every pot and a goal in every game. Just not this night. Or, this season.


Videos

Photos