July 18, 2012
Red-hot Reds tame Rapids
By IAN SHANTZ, QMI Agency
TORONTO - Suddenly, there is hope, albeit of the razor-thin variety.
Following a gritty 2-1 win over the Colorado Rapids in front of 18,225 at BMO Field on Wednesday night, Toronto FC sits in a position not even the most loyal of followers would have predicted a few short weeks ago.
The Reds, if only for now, and if only through a set of binoculars, can actually see a playoff position off in the distance.
That’s three straight wins and points in eight of the past nine games.
“All the guys are fighting for each other,” said defender Doneil Henry, who set up the game-winner with a perfect cross in the 67th minute that newcomer Andrew Wiedeman buried for his first career goal. “Three games in a row, it’s perfect, you know?
“If we keep it going like this, we can maybe turn around the season,” the 19-year-old Brampton native added. “Wish we could have started this a lot earlier, but the camaraderie as a team, the group effort and not quitting even if we’re not playing well, we’re going to fight.”
Certainly, the mountain is massive — Toronto is nine points back of the Houston Dynamo for the final post-season spot heading into the all-star mark of the campaign — but the Reds will take it.
After all, three straight wins sure beats nine losses in a row, like the squad endured to open the season. And it they maintain this pace, the season to forget could eventually and unfathomably become one to remember.
Helping that cause on Wednesday was the Ryan Johnson and Luis Silva experiment, which is off to a flying start.
And the new kid in town — Wiedeman, acquired in last week’s trade with Dallas for Julian de Guzman trade —apparently has a pretty deft touch, too.
Wiedeman’s ability to finish off a dazzling tic-tac-toe play that included Silva and Henry lifted the home side to a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
“He’s deceptively quick ... wonderful feet,” TFC head coach and director of soccer operations Paul Mariner said of the club’s latest acquisition. “He just has an eye for the goal ... his touch is good ... I’m just so pleased for him.”
Meanwhile, the rookie Silva, shifted up to forward alongside Johnson due to star Danny Koeverman’s season-ending knee injury suffered on the weekend, sparked virtually every scoring opportunity enjoyed by the Reds, assisting on both Toronto goals on the night after tallying goals in his team’s previous two wins.
Johnson’s fourth of the season, a beautiful chip shot which came in the 51st minute, revitalized the Reds, which were a bit sluggish going into the half, but managed to come together when it mattered.
“I thought the second half was terrific,” Mariner said. “I think the resilience of these guys is off the charts.”
Conor Casey’s solid, but not overpowering header found its way over the left shoulder of goalkeeper Milos Kocic to give Colorado the early lead.
The Reds came within a goal post of striking first just three minutes in when Silva drew a penalty at the edge of the goal-line. But Johnson’s kick from the spot rang off the post to the left of goalkeeper Matt Pickens, who was called for the infraction on Silva.
Next up for Toronto is a friendly with Liverpool on Saturday at the Rogers Centre.
The MLS all-star game goes Wednesday in Philadelphia before the Reds resume league play next Saturday at home to Houston Dynamo.
HALF-TIME PEP TALK
Reds head coach Paul Mariner said he didn’t mince words at the half last night, his team trailing 1-0 and in desperate need of points.
“I gave them both barrels at half time,” Mariner said in his post-game press conference.
Forward Andrew Wiedeman, making his second appearance in a Toronto uniform, kept his distance in the locker room.
“I tried to kind of stay in the corner and stay out of the fire,” said Wiedeman, who apparently listened to his coach’s message, as he entered the game in the 60th minute and proceeded to score the game-winner minutes later.
“He definitely laid into us a little bit, but that’s what a coach is for: To try to get the best out of the players.
“That’s what he did.”
Wiedeman, acquired in last week’s deal that sent Julian de Guzman to Dallas, was obviously thrilled to notch the first point of his MLS career in such fashion.
“That always helps take some pressure off the shoulders, definitely,” the California native said. “It feels great.”