TORONTO - Dwayne De Rosario was featured on Toronto FCís match-day program Saturday. His trade less than 24 hours before kick-off meant he would be very much still on the mind during the proceedings at BMO Field.
And it was the Toronto FC captain who could have been the difference in an uninspiring 1-1 draw with Chivas USA. Unfortunately for Toronto, the teamís first non-Canadian captain didnít show the clutch finishing of his predecessor.
Maicon Santos was surprisingly head coach Aron Winterís choice for the armband. Even more surprising was the converted midfieldersí inability to finish in alone and around the keeper, firing wide of goal.
Tied 1-1 in the 60th minute, lumbering striker Alan Gordon played a beautifully timed ball, sending Maicon through onside. Alen Stevanovic, playing wide left, was in behind the defence as well, making for a two-on-none break on goal from 35 yards out. Chivas goalkeeper Dan Kennedy came out to challenge Santos. The Brazilianís touch past the keeper was bit too heavy, giving defender Andrew Boyens time to disrupt the play. Boyens slid from behind and Maicon missed a gaping net, with Stevanovic right next to him wondering how all could go so wrong.
Santos wasnít helped by the uneven surface inside the box. But itís a chance that had to be finished and was the difference between one point and three.
Toronto FC will feel hard done by being denied of a go-ahead goal right before the half. The ball found the back of the net, but the referee raised his flag, controversially calling it offside.
Last weekís hero, Javier Martina, gathered the ball to the right of goal and took a low shot across the mouth of goal. The ball hit both defender Ante Jazic and controversially before just crossing the goal-line. Cheers turned to boos as the lineman flagged Santos offside. The strikerís body was parallel to the defender. But Santos leaning in towards goal was in an offside position.
ďI was surprised the second goal (was) made to be offside,Ē said Winter. ďI think it wasnít off-side, it was really a goal.Ē
A case can be made Santos was played offside by the ball caroming off a Chivas defender before making contact. Itís a kind of goal that will be allowed more times than not. The linesman was brave, but not necessarily right.
Winter made four changes to his winning line-up from a week ago. Nathan Sturgis lost his spot altogether, like Nick Soolsma the week before, not even featuring on the substitutes bench. Starts were given to the two new players coming over in the De Rosario deal, Tony Tchani and Danleigh Borman. Nana Attakora also returned to the starting 11, recovering from injury. But the day didnít start well for the centre-back.
In the third minute, Attakora was sloppy in his challenge on Jorge Flores, with the ball squirting out to Alejandro Moreno behind the Toronto back-line. Goalkeeper Stefan Frei didnít have a chance on the strike and the visitors went up 1-0. Attakora struggled throughout and was substituted in the 65th minute.
After a lackluster first half-hour, Toronto began to grow more comfortable and found the equalizer in the 36th minute.
Former Chivas striker Gordon, who was traded to Toronto last month, met a beautiful Jacob Peterson free kick to head home his first for Toronto FC, equalling his goal-scoring total at Chivas. Gordon was left wide open inside the box, with confusion among the Chivas defenders. The defending was sloppy, but the finish was true.
Midfielder Julian de Guzman made his season debut after having off-season knee surgery, coming on as a halftime substitute. Saturday was also de Guzman bobblehead day.
After the game, Winter addressed the clubís decision to trade De Rosario and reacted to De Rosarioís statements in an exclusive interview in the Saturday Sun.
ďIíve read the Toronto Sun this morning Ö I want to be clear to everyone weíve (made) a very good (contract) offer for the first three years and he was not happy with it, and he came to us to asked to be traded, and thatís the real story,Ē said Winter.
ďHe wasnít happy because he wants to be a DP (designated player), weíve tried everything to get him a DP,Ē added Winter. ďIt was his choice.Ē
Toronto FC will have some explaining to do if De Rosario winds up becoming a designated player in New York. The reluctance to give the hometown product the contract he feels he deserves, while saving $100,000 is cap space by doing so, never made a whole lot of sense from an outsiderís perspective. Multiple sources say Major League Soccer is willing to grant De Rosario a Designated Player contract.
Itís difficult to suggest Toronto FC is better off without De Rosario. A draw in a winnable game against a sub-par Chivas with a 1p.m. kick-off against a Western Conference team isnít good enough.