Wizards prep for FC faithful

DEAN MCNULTY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:11 AM ET

It was just a year ago that Toronto FC -- in its rookie Major League Soccer season -- was forced into an extended road trip to start the year that all but took them out of the playoff picture before the Victoria Day weekend.

Today, TFC will take to BMO Field with a two-game winning streak in hand and a home-sweet-home advantage for five of the next six matches while the visiting Kansas City Wizards find themselves on the second leg of a gruelling seven-game road trip over the next eight weeks.

But before anyone starts feeling sorry for Kansas coach Curt Onalfo and his travelling band, the MLS standings show them on top of the Eastern division tied with New England Revolution having lost just once in their first five games.

It's the kind of start that TFC coach John Carver would take in a heart beat.

Onaflo isn't even the least bit over-confident, however, as his team prepares to play in front of the expected 20,000 plus fanatical supporters of the home side.

In a telephone interview prior to the Wizards leaving Kansas City yesterday, Onaflo said he has issued a warning to his starting 11.

"I told them that (BMO Field) is the hardest place to play in the league," he said. "They must be prepared right off the first kick to deal with the crowd."

Onaflo said that he'll not soon forget the last time the Wizards were in Toronto. It was the home opener for the team and the crowd set the tone for every game to follow.

"We were able to pull off a 1-0 victory last year (at BMO)," he said. "But I kept telling my players that that was a huge victory because of all of the emotions that had gone into that game."

The Brazilian-born Onaflo has been reading the clippings and looking at video of this year's TFC squad and he sees a big difference.

"I know (TFC) is a much improved team and we are going to have our hands full," he said. "We are very,very aware of the additions Mo Johnston has made and we have a game plan ready for them."

He said that players of the calibre of Laurent Robert, Amado Guevara and newly signed Olivier Tebily will offer up a formidable foe for his league-leading Wizards, but not one they can't overcome.

Kansas began its current road trip last week with a 1-0 victory over Chicago Fire -- only the second time in MLS history they have beaten the Windy City side at home.

Wizards midfielder Jack Jewsbury said yesterday that winning in Chicago will hopefully set the tone for the rest of the team's two-month odyssey.

"Winning that game gives a lot of confidence because we're on the road for the next two months; we don't have another home game until June," he said. "To get off to a good start is great and we hope we can keep it going."


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