TORONTO - Toronto FC brought its own version of Soccer Night in Canada to the table in a 1-0 win over Panamaís Arabe Unido to close out their CONCACAF Champions League campaign.
Six Canadian players started the game for Toronto, the first time six Canadians had started for the Reds since a 2-1 loss to the L.A. Galaxy, Oct. 13th, 2007 in TFCís inaugural season.
Among the Canadian contingent was Tuesday nightís lone goal-scorer, defender Nana Attakora. In the 30th minute, the TFC centre-back did well to rise to get to Nick LaBroccaís inswinging free-kick, flicking the ball into the right-hand corner past the diving goalkeeper, Jose Calderon. The goal was Attakoraís second of the season in all competitions.
Joining Attakora among Canadian starters included Canadian internationals, captain Dwayne De Rosario and midfielder Julian de Guzman. Homegrown, Toronto FC Academy signings Nicholas Lindsay and Doneil Henry also got the start, as did current Academy defender Ashtone Morgan.
Every player, including the young Canucks, played a role and looked very much the part in the victory.
Interestingly enough, the infusion of Canadian talent into Toronto FCís line-up came the same day Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber was in Toronto, and said proposed changes to MLS Canadian content rules arenít necessarily a done deal. Currently, MLS requires Toronto to have six Canadian players on its 24-man roster. It has been reported, to the Canadian Soccer Associationís (CSA) dismay, the rule will be abandoned with Vancouver entering the league next season, and Montreal the year after that.
The CSA, and many Canadians alike, believe Canadian representation on MLS rosters is vital to the growth of our National program.
Over the years, former director of soccer Mo Johnston had voiced his concerns about the quality of Canadian players and finding requisite quality for his roster. The six players starting the game Tuesday, although a small sample size in terms of players and it being just one game, give hope players can be developed on Canadian soil and grow capable of playing the professional game.
Toronto FCís best chances of the first half came through Canadians.
In the 27th minute Lindsay came into the middle of the park before unleashing an innocent shot that was easily controlled by the keeper. The thought and movement coming from the player was right, just not the finish. As long as Lindsay keeps showing such initiative, positives will come for the 18-year old.
De Rosarioís turn came in the 41st minute. From 35 yards out, De Rosarioís low drive forced the keeper into an uncomfortable save, giving up a dangerous rebound.
De Rosario, the teamís inspirational leader, came close again in the 65th minute, shooting just wide from outside the 18-yard box.
In the 71st minute, Morgan almost opened his account as a senior player, unleashing a decent left-footed strike after De Rosario found the teenager streaking inside the box. Morgan was disappointed with his finish, but the instinctive offensive move has to be seen as a positive.
On the defensive end, de Guzman looked much more comfortable in his defensive holding role, as he has as of late, since interim head coach (and Canadian might I add), Nick Dasovic intelligently decided to deputize another holding midfielder, Dan Gargan beside him. It never made much sense for the previous head coach to play Gargan as an outside midfielder. Gargan doesnít have the pace to play the position effectively. But he does well in snuffing out the attack from the holding role.
Also down the middle, Henry started the game beside Attakora at centre-back, looking much more comfortable in the middle of the park than he did previously in the CONCACAF group qualifying stage.
TFCís journey through CONCACAF, although not ultimately successful, however showed what kind of squad depth the team needs in future campaigns to advance deeper into the competition.