Reds win but it's too little, too late

DEAN MCNULTY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:46 AM ET

Toronto FC saved its best soccer of the season for its final home game yesterday afternoon in a 3-2 win over the Chicago Fire at BMO Field.

Unfortunately, any reward for the effort was gone by the time the clock struck midnight.

TFC was at the mercy of two key games being played last night -- New York Red Bulls at Columbus Crew and San Jose Earthquakes at Kansas City Wizards -- and when the Red Bulls beat the Crew 3-1 and the Wizards beat San Jose 3-2, it ended any chance of post season play for the Reds.

In any event, TFC closed out its home schedule with a convincing victory -- the first for the team at home since beating Colorado Rapids in June -- on the strength of a pair of goals from Rohan Ricketts and a perfectly potted marker from Amado Guevara in the 12th minute.

Ricketts -- never one to play down his own talents -- admitted he was lucky on both of his goals.

The first was off a penalty shot in the 18th minute after Marvell Wynne was pulled down in the goal area by Chicago's Willman Conde.

Ricketts' first shot was stopped by Fire goalkeeper Jon Busch but the TFC midfielder pounced on the rebound to put TFC up 2-0.

Chicago got one back in the 25th minute from Justin Mapp from inside the goal area, but Ricketts got his second goal in extra time off of a pass from Carl Robinson before the first half ended.

"The first goal was just pure reaction," Ricketts said. "As soon as I saw the ball come back I was on it."

TFC coach John Carver said that he debated whether or not to even start the 26-year-old Ricketts.

"He was one that was a big question mark, the only one, really," Carver said. "It was either him or Johann Smith. I sat and thought about it, left it as late as possible and decided to go with Rohan and he's come up trumps."

For that opportunity, Ricketts thanked Carver by immediately going to the coach after his second goal.

"That goal was for him," Ricketts said. "He has believed in me ever since I came here and honestly, he has rejuvenated my career."

In spite of the win, TFC has to face the fact that the season hasn't been a success even with the third best home record (6-2-7) at BMO Field.

A seven-game winless streak through July and August put the team almost out of contention.

TFC captain Jim Brennan said he believes the club's international commitments -- at one point the Reds were missing nine starters away on World Cup qualifying matches -- were a factor in the team's summer slump.

"We've had a few players come in and it takes time for people to adjust and get everybody on the same page, and I think we have that at the moment," he said. "Even when the National team guys went away, other guys were coming in and doing a job. It takes time and now you can see slowly but surely it came together the last few games."

Even yesterday's match was a nail-biter to the end after Cuauhtemoc Blanco pulled the Fire within a goal in the 59th minute.

TFC has either lost or given up leads in the final 15 minutes of play more than half a dozen times this season.

"We were (holding our breath), it's always hard when you take a lead and they're going to try and give everything they got to equalize," Brennan said. "But we held on there till the end and we got the win."


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