TORONTO - “Don’t Count us Out.”
That was Toronto FC captain Dwayne De Rosario’s message to supporters on Toronto radio station The Fan 590 on Wednesday. While a firestorm has been lit all around him because of his “infamous” goal celebration last weekend, De Rosario remains focused on doing the unthinkable, keeping Toronto FC’s slimmest of playoff hopes alive.
Although the message may seem altruistic, it exemplifies the 12-goal man’s desire to compete, and his disdain for failure. De Rosario and the teams for which he has played had never missed Major League Soccer’s playoffs before he came to Toronto last season. And despite his positive outlook, a second consecutive year on the outside looking in is inevitable.
With four games to play, maximum points are essential. So it’s of the utmost importance for De Rosario and TFC to put the hoopla behind them. If there is one player that can make the unthinkable happen wearing Red, that man is De Rosario.
Toronto is in the Pacific Northwest on Saturday, taking on the Seattle Sounders (3:30pm ET/CBC). The second-year Sounders are very much part of the MLS playoff picture, sitting on 39 points, eight points ahead of Toronto FC, and tied for seventh place overall in Major League Soccer.
The team that defeated TFC at BMO Field last Saturday, the San Jose Earthquakes, also sit on 39 points. Dwindling games and a significant gap in points make the math rather simple. TFC must accumulate the full 12 points from remaining games to have even the slimmest shot at a playoff spot. Complicating matters, both the Sounders and the Earthquakes still have to play the Kansas City Wizards, who also sit ahead of TFC in the table on 33 points with a game in hand.
So basically it’s Mission Improbable for Toronto FC.
And who better to lead dramatic comeback story than De Rosario? The Scarborough native has made a living of scoring big goals, leading by example throughout his illustrious MLS career.
Rising to the occasion is De Rosario’s forte; the winning goal in two MLS Cup Finals, two game-winners in MLS All-Star games, not to mention a hat-trick in Toronto’s “Miracle in Montreal” and two goals, including the dramatic game-winner in time added on in Houston a fortnight ago with the club teetering on the edge of self-destruction after the double-firing of its coach and general manager.
De Rosario has five game-winning goals this season alone, including the second-half game-winner when Toronto FC downed Seattle 2-0 on April 25 at BMO Field. Which begs the question; where would this team be without him?
Seattle comes into the game on Saturday red-hot in league play, having defeated the Chicago Fire and Columbus Crew on the road in their last two. After a slow start to the season, the Sounders made big changes, sending Designated Player Freddie Ljungberg to Chicago.
The Sounders, with a keen eye for talent, brought in two Designated Players to replace the Swede. World Cup participants Blaise Nkufo (Switzerland) and Alvaro Fernandez (Uruguay) joined the club mid-season, and their influence continues to grow.
Nfuko scored an away hat trick at Columbus and the game-winner in Chicago over the last two weeks. Meanwhile the 24-year old Fernandez scored two goals in his first week at the club and brings versatility to the midfield.
The additions of Nfuko and Fernandez add to an already deep and talented Seattle side. Goalkeeper Kasey Keller has been a steadying influence at the back over the past two seasons. Columbian striker Fredy Montero leads a balanced attack with 10 goals, with the 2009 No. 1 overall draft pick, Steve Zakuani, chipping in with eight.
The Sounders’ early successes haven’t gone unnoticed, with Saturday being Seattle’s 30th consecutive home sellout.
Like Toronto, the Sounders had a mid-week CONCACAF Champions League match. The Sounders beat CD Marathon 2-0, but were able to rest their regulars, having already been eliminated from the competition. Toronto wasn’t afforded such a luxury, with its starters battling to a 1-1 draw with Real Salt Lake. The draw eliminated Toronto from the competition.
There is no doubt, TFC’s legs will be weary after weeks of extensive travel and physical and emotional demands. TFC midfielder Joseph Nane (ankle) and midfielder Martin Saric (hamstring) will miss the match because of their injuries. Forward Maicon Santos is likely to be available for selection.