TFC plays to draw

GARETH WHEELER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:02 AM ET

Toronto FC got its pre-season schedule off to a strong start on Wednesday playing to a 1-1 draw with Serbian Super Liga leaders Partizan Belgrade in Antalya, Turkey.

Defender Nana Attakora got Toronto FC on the board first, firing one home in the sixth minute. Off a corner, Attakora beat his defender to the ball on the bounce at the near post, turned and fired into the top left corner. Was it a shot? Was it a cross? It didnt matter. Attakora did well with a difficult ball and made his own luck, whatever the case.

Dwayne De Rosario could have doubled the lead in the 36th minute. After Uruguayan trialist Santiago Gonzalez Areco was fouled in the box, De Rosario blasted his effort from the penalty spot off the post. Just five minutes later, Partizan equalized where De Rosario could not, with Nemanja Tomic converting from the penalty spot.

With no live-stream of the contest, our own eyes and ears, Toronto FC goalkeeper Stefan Frei checked in with his thoughts on the match, and how pre-season has been going for the boys in Red.

* Frei: It is fairly good day for us is coming to an end as we just returned from dinner. Today included our first training match against Partizan Belgrade. We were all anxious to get this first game under our belt. Our opposition for this game is a top European team that is currently in mid-season and getting ready for the second half of their domestic league. With regular Champions League appearances for them, we knew it was going to be a tough game, but looking back at it, I think we did a solid job.

* Wheeler: Partizan Belgrade currently has a five-point cushion atop Serbias top league. Partizan competed in this years Champions League group stage, failing to pick up a point in Group H that featured Shakhtar Donetsk, Arsenal and Braga. Of particular interest for Partizan supporters on Wednesday was a first look at new recruits, strikers Prince Tagoe and Dominic Aidiyah, both brought to the club during the transfer window. Both saw 45 minutes of action.

* Frei: The final score was a 1:1 tie, which is a decent result, but pre-season scrimmages are not so much about the results, but more about getting game fitness and allowing the team to jel with new teammates and a new system. Considering these goals we did fairly well. I remind you that this is our first training match and we have only been in pre-season camp for a couple of days. I can assure you that TFC will be playing a different kind of game this year. Our coach wants to play football, a simple yet highly skillful, organized and beautiful game to watch. This tends to be very effective as well, although playing Wednesday forced some players, including myself, to play out of their comfort zones. We are all expected to minimize long balls and try to build out of the back. As the game went on, Partizan realized what we were trying to do and started pressing high, but surprise, surprise, holes starting popping up behind its initial first line of pressure. To be able to ping the ball into these holes will require players, again myself included, to become very quick and precise with their passing, a skill that will elevate our game to the next level.

* Wheeler: As expected, head coach Aron Winter played 4-3-3 system. Winter started an entirely different side in the first half from the second.

First half: Frei, Gargan, Attakora, Cann, Zavarise, Peterson, LaBrocca, DeRo, Soolsma, Martina, Gonzalez.

Second Half: Kocic, Harden, Henry, Gomez, Morgan, King Gyan Osei, Sturgis, Cordon, Ent, Maicon, Plata.

In the 32nd minute, Frei, made two great saves, showing the superior form he displayed last season. While the first half featured open football with TFC strong in possession, the second half was more disjointed. Both teams found the woodwork in the second half, including TFC Academy midfielder Oscar Cordon hitting the bar in the 75th minute. Cordon didnt finish his 45 minutes of action, limping off five minutes from time, with De Rosario re-entering the fold. Academy graduate Doneil Henry didnt finish his full 45 minutes either, picking up his second yellow card, sent off in the 90th minute.

* Frei: Its a good first game to have under our belt. We are all aware that there is a long ways to go, but everybody is optimistic and I think with some hard work this pre-season, we will be ready. On another note, I still love my first stay in Turkey. I am definitely enjoying the weather, especially hearing about the weather in Toronto right now. The facilities are great, the hotel is awesome and the food is good as well. Some players have battled sickness, but the majority has been healthy and nobody has picked up any serious injuries.

I am excited with where this team is heading, but the road is long and it continues tomorrow with another double day. With that being said, I should hit the hay and rest my body. Hope you are all hanging in there with freezing temperatures in Toronto; I will drop another update soon.

Best Wishes,

Stefan


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