April 28, 2011
TFC catches break against Seattle
By KURTIS LARSON, QMI Agency
It wasn’t enough to satisfy Aron Winter.
Following TFC’s 3-0 dismantling of F.C. Edmonton in the first leg of the Canadian Cup, the Dutchman addressed Toronto’s performance ahead of Saturday night’s MLS match in Seattle.
Pleased with the three away goals the Reds secured ahead of the return leg, Winter took aim at TFC’s inability to simplify the game against an inferior opponent while playing up a man for most of the match. Truth be told, the final score could have been worse.
Resting a number of players ahead of this weekend’s game, Winter opened Wednesday’s contest with an intelligent blend of first team players and reserves that were able to complete the job.
Coming off of multiple quality outings as a late-game replacement, Joao Plata looked sharp on the ball, showing excellent vision in supplying creative passes that led to Toronto’s goals.
TFC’s opener saw Plata pick out Maicon Santos in the 12th minute at the back post with a neat pass from the edge of the penalty area, following that assist up with an equally clever chip to put in Alan Gordon after the break.
Richard Eckersley showed well in his first start, sitting behind Plata but often joining the attack. The Englishman’s ability to create overlapping runs while staying hard in defence should see him lock up the right back spot once he achieves full match fitness.
Edmonton fans will point to referee Paul Ward’s decision to send off Shaun Saiko midway through the first half as a deciding factor, but replays showed Saiko’s two-footed, studs up challenge on Oscar Cordon was very late and potentially dangerous.
Cordon shook off the challenge and put in a solid performance in place of Julian de Guzman in the centre of midfield.
In search of their first win in Seattle, the Reds move their attention away from Edmonton and back to MLS. While the Sounders come into Saturday night’s match riding a five-game unbeaten streak, they’ll have to look to their bench for quality minutes.
Two key names are injured for the Sounders ahead of Saturday night — one of which will be familiar.
Toronto’s first four seasons saw the club’s dressing room seemingly custom-fitted with a revolving door.
The turnover on TFC’s roster was magnified by the immediate successes of players who departed in favour of other MLS destinations.
From Jeff Cunningham’s Golden Boot campaign in Dallas to Marvel Wynne hoisting an MLS Cup in Colorado, you could form a legitimate best 11 with the players that once graced BMO Field.
Add another name to the list.
Saturday’s night’s match in Seattle would have reunited former TFC target man O’Brian White with the club that let him walk via the expansion draft to Vancouver, who eventually sent him to Seattle. But the Jamaican International, who was eligible to play for Canada, was ruled out Thursday with a blood clot.
With two goals, two assists and numerous strong showings on the year, White was one of three players to start all seven games for Seattle this season. And after falling largely out of favour with TFC’s front office and fans, the Reds will be fortunate to not have to deal with another player who found new life after leaving.
ON A QWEST
The Sounders will also make do without the services of Steve Zakuani. The speedy winger suffered a fracture to his leg from a vicious challenge by Colorado’s Brian Mullan last week.
The loss of White and Zakuani, who were both enjoying their best starts to a season, should relieve some of the pressure on outside backs Danleigh Boreman and Eckersley.
Having taken a single point from two previous trips to Qwest Field, Toronto’s back four will have turn their attention to the South American trio of Fredy Montero, Mauro Rosales and Alvaro Fernandez.
Fernandez, who appeared in the 2010 World Cup for Uruguay, will likely replace Zakuani on the wing while Montero will sit in front of Toronto’s back four and look to get in behind Toronto’s two centre-halfs.
Coming off a strong performance in Edmonton, should Eckersley earn his first MLS start, Fernandez will be the first real test for TFC’s newest piece. Eckersley’s pace and positioning will be tested by the Uruguayan’s ability to combine and whip in crosses from the left side of midfield.
De Guzman and Seattle’s Osvaldo Alonso control things in the middle for both sides. Being similar players, it will be interesting to see how this matchup takes shape. Coming off a strong showing against Columbus, questions remain as to whether de Guzman can be a factor every time out.
With Gordon and Javier Martina certain to start up top, there is confusion as to who should run alongside them.
Jacob Peterson looked comfortable playing on the wing last week, but Alen Stevanovich’s return complicates things.
Similarly, after dropping Santos into midfield, Winter has the option of having the Brazilian join Gordon and Martina up top. But after going the full 90 in Edmonton, don’t be surprised if Santos sits in favour of a healthy Stevanovich.
An intriguing setup would see Gordon head an attack with Martina and Peterson on the flanks and Stevanovich sitting just beneath the three attackers in a playmaking role.
Able to set aside the return leg with Edmonton, TFC enters Qwest Field with the strongest side they’ve travelled with.
With a number of key injuries to the Sounders, the points are there for the taking.
DOT DOT DOT
Zakuani’s horrific leg fracture became historic Thursday when MLS handed Mullan a 10-game suspension and $5,000 fine for injuring Seattle’s playmaker, the longest suspension in league history … Following last week’s curious red card to Tony Tchani, MLS submitted a release calling the decision to eject Tchani poor judgment. After numerous poor showings from referees to start the season, is it time MLS look into an organized disciplinary committee on poor officiating? … Played in a city captivated by the Canadiens-Bruins series, Vancouver came away with a 1-0 win in Montreal in the first leg of their Canadian Cup semifinal. As long as both MLS sides hold the opposition at home, an intriguing Cup final could be in store.