|Toronto FC's Peri Marosevic tries to get a shot on goal past FC Dallas defenders Jair Benitez and Ugo Ihemelu (right) during their CONCACAF Champions League match in Toronto on Thursday, Aug. 25, 2011. (REUTERS/Mike Cassese)
TORONTO - A first-half header in stoppage time from Jack Stewart gave FC Dallas its third consecutive 1-0 win over TFC and moved the Texans atop CONCACAF’s Group C through two games.
Sharpness was a theme echoed by both benches after Thursday morning’s Champions League match — a full replay of a game originally scheduled for Wednesday night that was abandoned halfway through due to severe storms and torrential rain.
“The solution was to play the game today,” head coach Aron Winter told reporters when asked about TFC’s preparedness for the early start. “When these things happen, it’s not nice because of preparation.”
Looking to correct TFC’s poor performance the night before, the Dutchman adjusted the Reds into a 3-4-3 with Frings in defence and offensive minded midfielders Matt Stinson and Zavarise on to replace Andy Iro and Terry Dunfield — something that created a number of opportunities late in the game.
But Dallas’ late first-half goal held up.
With Dallas captain Daniel Hernandez failing to convert a 44th minute penalty, the clubs looked destined to remain scoreless at the break until Ugo Ihemelu’s second attempt from a corner found an unmarked Stewart whose near-post flick beat Milos Kocic and put the MLS finalists up for good.
“It’s the end of the first half and you have to stay tighter to players,” Kocic said of the goal. “It has to be better on set pieces … especially going into the half.”
Though they’ve failed to score in more than 300 minutes against the Hoops, Stewart’s stoppage time goal came against the run of play as Toronto failed to convert a number of first-half chances.
Toronto nearly led on 14 minutes when a Dallas turnover fell to Ryan Johnson in the attacking third. The Jamaican split a pair of defenders with a pass to Peri Marosevic whose close-range attempt deflected over the bar.
A tame opening picked up just before the break with both sides trading opportunities five minutes from halftime.
With a single defender to beat after receiving a pass in space, Joao Plata’s step-over fooled Ihemelu to open up space for a tight angle shot in the 39th minute. The Ecuadoran’s low drive nearly slipped underneath Kevin Hartman who was off his line to cut the angle.
The Dallas ‘keeper looked beat minutes later after Torsten Frings hit Marosevic in space on the right wing. The former Dallas prospect’s cross drifted over Hartman just inches away from a lurking Plata.
“We had a lot of opportunities to score,” Winter said. “If you watch the whole game we were creating a lot of chances but missing the goal. We were not sharp at that moment.”
Describing Toronto as lacking urgency, Winter identified Dallas’ first-half winner as a time when TFC’s back four fell asleep after controlling a majority of the game.
With Dallas only interested in holding the lead, opportunities were scarce until the game opened up in the 79th minute. Marosevic received a clever through-ball from Plata at the top of the penalty area before an onrushing Hartman came off his line to deny the Reds a way back.
Marosevic failed to convert a third quality chance when he fanned on a full volley metres from goal five minutes from time that would have given the Reds a share and Marosevic some revenge against a club that threw him away.
“At the end of the day, that’s a chance I have to put away,” Marosevic said. “It’s good that we’re creating these opportunities, but at the end of the day it doesn’t matter if we don’t put them away.”
The sobering loss puts TFC at a disadvantage in Group C with Dallas picking up six points through two road matches with TFC playing its next match at Pumas of Mexico.
After picking up three points in Panama, the home loss means TFC can’t drop any more points at BMO Field and must pick up at least a draw in either Dallas or Mexico City — something the club managed at Cruz Azul last year.
Defensive regular Richard Eckersley will miss Toronto’s third group match at Pumas on Sept. 14 after receiving a sending off late in second half stoppage time.
Toronto returns to league action Saturday night against the visiting San Jose Earthquakes.