CARSON, Calif. Ė For Toronto FC fans, never has a 0-0 draw been so pretty to watch.
While Toronto poured in four goals at home against the Chicago Fire last week, Saturdayís stalemate with the Los Angeles Galaxy will do even more to convince the cityís soccer fans that the Reds are indeed turning a corner.
The Reds came in without a single point on the road in MLS action. The Galaxy? Undefeated in eight MLS games.
But, once the whistle sounded, the Galaxy sure didnít look like the most dominant team in the league. The fans at the Home Depot Centre, frustrated, rained down boos before the stroke of halftime. Heck, TFC keeper Stefan Frei didnít have to make a save in the first half.
Those catcalls must have been music to Prekiís ears. Since he took the job as the TFC coach, heís repeatedly said that only through hard work will this franchise turn things around. And, while 0-0 may seem like an unspectacular result, it was a point well-earned. Yes, the team is still only 3-4-1. The team is still 10th overall in MLS. But this draw has to be a major psychological boost.
TFC central defender Nana Attakora was placed in a series of battles with MLS leading scorer Edson Buddle, and, for the most part, blanketed the nine-goal man. Buddle had one great chance midway through the second half; but the crossbar denied his headed attempt at goal. Attakora put in his best performance of the season, not allowing Buddle any space or time on the ball. Adrian Cann, his defensive partner, simply continues to play his position intelligently, not trying to do too much.
Yes, the Galaxy apologist could argue that coach Bruce Arena played Buddle up front with reigning league MVP and current MLS assist leader Landon Donovan, rather than having Donovan acting as the provider from the midfield. Alan Gordon, who had been starting with Buddle up front, wasnít available, so a shuffle was made. And Donovan wasnít nearly as effective as Buddleís partner as when heís the provider.
The evening didnít start off well for the Reds. Midfielder Julian de Guzman took the warm-up, but couldnít go because of a bad hamstring, which will now make Canadian national team coach Stephen Hart wonder if JDG can answer the bell for the scheduled friendly in Argentina next week. The last-second scratch forced Preki to insert Martin Saric into the lineup, where he paired with Amadou Sanyang, with both TFC midfielders asked to disrupt the Galaxyís passing game as much as possible.
The first half not only saw TFC disrupt the Galaxyís play, but create some good chances of its own.
At the five-minute, striker Chad Barrett ran onto a long ball from Nana Attakora, then slotted a ball to a wide open Dwayne De Rosario in front of Galaxy keeper Josh Saunders, playing in the place of regular starter Donovan Ricketts who was ruled out with a bad elbow. With Saunders at his mercy, DeRo missed the target.
Three minutes later, Barrett ran onto the ball that was flicked on by De Rosario and smacked a bounding shot that Saunders had to dive to direct just outside the post.
Four minutes into the second half, Barrett looked to be in alone on the Galaxy goal, but he was hacked down by 2009 rookie of the year Omar Gonzalez just outside the box. The Galaxy fullback got a yellow for the challenge, but there are more than a few officials who would have shown red for the foul, as Gonzalez looked to be the last defender back.
The Galaxyís had its first good chance in the 58th minute, when Jovan Kirovskiís headed attempt off a cross from rookie Michael Stephens flashed just wide of the Toronto FC goal.
With 20 minutes left, Preki brought De Rosario off and inserted Gabe Gala to shore up the midfield, a sign that TFC would try to hold on to the point. De Rosario was also on the receiving end of a nasty foul by Galaxy defender Gregg Berhalter in the first half.
And even though the Galaxy brought more pressure, the defence didnít break.
As time ticked down and TFC hung on, Maksim Usanov was sent off for shoving Donovan to the turf, his second yellow of the game. Frei finished with two highlight-reel saves to preserve the point.