TFC deserves a standing O

KURTIS LARSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:23 PM ET

TORONTO - Even Toronto’s most loyal supporters were speechless following TFC’s commanding performance in Dallas.

With some — myself at times — questioning head coach Aron Winter’s ability to succeed in North America’s top tier, Toronto’s 3-0 dismantling of last year’s Cup contenders gifted supporters something the club never has — a positive conclusion after four years of failure.

Although Joao Plata’s two goals were well-taken, the winner came from the likeliest of sources. Danny Koevermans’ nine goals in 14 starts offers the most impressive strike rate in the league. Not because of his goals-per-game account, but because so many have come at critical times.

Following his side’s illustrious win — its first at Pizza Hut Park — Koevermans said the result saved the club’s underwhelming league campaign.

“I hope the people in Toronto enjoyed it,” he said. “This makes the season, especially the second part.”

The clean sheet was impressive for reasons beyond the club’s mesmerizing ability to move the ball; it established a pair of academy prospects as legitimate options. In his most impressive full-team performance, Doneil Henry cancelled Brek Shea — North America’s leading prospect — in replacement of an injured Richard Eckersley. Henry and Ashtone Morgan played a big part in preserving a shutout and breaking the trend of three consecutive 1-0 losses to Dallas. It also broke a 10-game winless streak against the Hoops dating back to 2007.

But the statistics fail to capture that it truly was the club’s best performance in its history, something the club had been preparing for.

“The guys, the players, the staff, everybody was completely focused on this game because of its importance,” Winter said.

The focus started last weekend in Philly when the Dutchman rested first-choice players. Dallas couldn’t handle TFC’s energy after head coach Sheyllas Hyndman ignored Match Day 6 by running out his starters just days before. “(Toronto) competed for every ball,” Hyndman said. “They were focused on getting a result … we didn’t match their intensity.”

PUMAS TOPS TABLE

Needing Tauro F.C. to drop Pumas for TFC to top Group C, the Panamanians joined Dallas at the bottom of the table after a 1-0 loss Wednesday.

A Tauro win would have provided the Reds a more favourable matchup next round.

As top seeds from the competition’s four groups are drawn against second-place finishers, TFC will likely face Monterrey or Santos Laguna next round — a pair of clubs that overtook Seattle and Colorado in their respective groups.

A draw will determine who the Reds host in March.

BMO TURFED?

Where the club intends to host the opening leg is causing a stir.

When Montreal miraculously advanced to the quarters in 2009, the club moved the match from the 13,000-seat Stade Saputo to Olympic Stadium.

Selling tickets for peanuts, the Impact jammed in 55,000 before earning a stunning 2-0 win over Santos Laguna.

Montreal’s success has spurred debate about moving TFC’s leg to the Rogers Centre.

While some claim the switch would allow for an improved atmosphere — as well as affordable ticket prices in an effort to fill the dome — management must determine whether the potential to sell thousands of additional seats outweighs the benefits of hosting a Mexican side at BMO Field in frigid weather.

EXPANSION DRAFT ANNOUNCED

The Montreal Impact will be on the clock Nov. 23.

Using similar guidelines from previous expansion drafts, the league’s newest club will select 10 players (only one from a single club) left unprotected.

In addition to homegrown and Generation Adidas players, current clubs must protect 11 players, including designated players with no-trade clauses.

Although TFC policy prohibits the release of contract specifics, in a repeat of the 2010 expansion draft, Julian de Guzman could be left unprotected if the club looks to offload his deal.

In the midst of his best MLS campaign, it’s unlikely Montreal will jump at the opportunity with a $1.9-million price tag hanging over the Canadian.

Still, expansion sides are unpredictable and Montreal might get satisfaction from stealing TFC’s holding midfielder.

Winter must weigh the threat of losing a talented player in an already crowded midfield against the possibility of dumping a massive contract.

SATURDAY’S SEND OFF

Two players from TFC’s opening-day lineup started in Dallas — Ty Harden and Nick Soolsma.

“We did not have a good roster,” Winter said. “We traded a lot of players to get better-quality guys.”

Trades and acquisitions helped the Reds collect 14 points from their last 10 league matches, securing CONCACAF passage along the way.

While it’s not a stat that leaps off the page, had the club competed with its existing roster from the start of the season, TFC’s current points per game rate would see them battling for the final playoff spot.

“They bought into the system,” Hyndman said. “If Toronto had that kind of performance all season, they wouldn’t be finishing the season up this weekend.”

At full-time Saturday, no matter the result, nothing short of a standing ovation is acceptable.

It’s only appropriate Winter and the club do the same for those that have stuck with the club.


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