Velez keeps streak alive

Marco Velez celebrates his goal against the Red Bulls Thursday night. SUN MEDIA/Dave Abel

Marco Velez celebrates his goal against the Red Bulls Thursday night. SUN MEDIA/Dave Abel

DEAN MCNULTY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:58 AM ET

Mother Nature showed up at BMO Field last night, but her harsh winds and driving rain weren't enough to stop Toronto FC from extending its unbeaten streak to four games in a 1-1 Major League Soccer match against Red Bull New York.

The elements did contribute, however, to the Red Bull's game plan of containing Amado Guevara and Laurent Robert -- TFC's top two offensive threats -- and holding the home side to just three shots on goal.

So suffocating was the pressure on the duo that early in the second half a frustrated Robert slammed into New York defender Hunter Freeman drawing a yellow card from referee Abiodun Okulaja.

But TFC coach John Carver had nothing but praise for New York coach Juan Carlos Osorio to keep close to Guevara and Robert.

"I thought it was a great game plan," Carver said. "I thought it was two very equal sides doing good battle on the pitch."

In such a tight game it was set plays -- one by each side on free kicks -- that resulted in the only markers.

The oft-criticized Marco Velez won over the soaked crowd of 19,816 when he ran in from his right back position to head in a pass from Robert after TFC was awarded a free kick inside the penalty area in the 22nd minute.

"He has been under a lot of pressure," Carver said. "It was nice to see him get rewarded."

For his part Velez showed his emotions when he darted for the sidelines to hug Carver, who had never doubted his play.

"I was excited," Velez said. "It was my first MLS goal."

Just 16 minutes later, however, New York got a huge break when TFC defender Tyrone Marshall was called for a hand ball just outside the 18-yard box in the 38th minutes.

Red Bull midfielder Dave van den Dergh kicked a rocket past Greg Sutton to even the score.

"I didn't like what happened to cause the penalty," Carver said. "But I can't fault Greg or the back four, who all played their best games (last night)."

Carver also said that Osorio's defensive strategy definitely hurt the play of both Robert and Guevara.

It was Guevara, traded from New York after an MVP season in 2004, who was looking forward to facing his former mates.

"(New York) was a team where I already played in this league and I have great respect for the team and my former teammates," he said. "It's a weird feeling because it's the first time I ever faced a team that I truly respect and enjoyed being part of.".

The Red Bull got a boost when star striker Juan Pablo Angel, who missed most of the past three games with a hamstring injury, started the game alongside teen star Jozy Altidore.

Carver had stressed to his team that the 18-year-old soccer prodigy deserved special coverage and it worked.

"I told the fellows that to stay close to him, but not too close," Carver said. "It worked because he never really knew where his markers were."

Altidore, who is destined to play in Europe's top leagues, was rarely a threat in his 90 minutes on the pitch.


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