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  • Off to beat the Wizards


    Right off the top, things were so different.

    Toronto FC urgently wanted the ball last night – and served notice early that this is a very different team from the one that abjectly surrendered from last year’s Major League Soccer playoff hunt during four dry, grinding months of mid-season uselessness.

    They were fast; they were daring; they hunted with their heads up all night, downing your basic assortment of Kansas City Wizards 3-2 to open the new campaign with a resounding road win.


    This new team runs. They work the ball from player to player, and last night Dwayne DeRosario led by example, creating chance after chance while Toronto gobbled up the lion’s share of possession time.

    In an interesting move, coach John Carver chose to start rookie Sam Cronin in the midfield, pushing DeRo up into a forward pairing with striker Chad Barrett. That left young Argentine Pablo Vitti on the bench, but don’t expect him to stay there long, because Barrett had a couple of dreadful misses.

    Miss one was a sloppy volley over the bar on the run. Miss two, I’ve never seen before in soccer. Barrett was sprung down the left by Dero, ran deep and unmarked into the Wizard box, found no one to pass to, saw the goalie ten feet in front of him – and passed the ball to the goalie! A touch pass, at that! A soft, custom-made roller you, me or an advertising sign couldn’t have misplayed. As opposed to, say, burning one at the near corner on the simple theory that the net is 24 feet wide, and the goalie isn’t.

    Happily, it was TFC’s only huge, gaping howler of the night.

    DeRo soon sprung captain Jim Brennan for a screamer goal off the KC crossbar. Amado Guevara – showing no ill effects from having to share the midfield spotlight – caught fire and buried two emphatic goals, one on his own out of nothing, the other off a fat, sassy rebound.

    The other eye-catching roster move was Carver’s choice of starting goalie. Young Stefan Frei got the call over veteran Greg Sutton, who had reportedly pranged a finger in practice. Frei looked steady. The two goals that beat him were both top-corner scream volleys from KC’s Davy Arnaud. No mortal man could have been reasonably expected to make either save.

    And then there was – The Thump!

    I remember watching defender Adrian Serioux practicing with the Canadian national team at BMO Field last summer. He doesn’t just clear the ball, he kills it. Serioux headers were smashing into the south grandstand seats with impressive force.

    Serioux tells the ball what to do, and the ball gets the blue heck out of there. This as opposed to departed defender Tyrone Marshall’s more polite approach, asking the uncooperative sphere if please it would mind relocating to the midfield?

    Challenge to the fans – any time Serioux kills a ball, I want to hear the entire stadium scream “Thump!”

    Yeah, it got tense at the end. KC cut the lead to 3-2, and DeRo hoofed a penalty into the railyards. But TFC maintained control – in all parts of the field – weathered a mild storm, and bagged the points.

    Next week in Columbus, we’ll see if these revved-up Reds can do the deal against the defending champs, a deep, deep squad who can – and do – play some serious defence. This should be Vitti’s MLS debut, and I hope to see him drive Columbus batty, and light a searing fire under one Chad Barrett.

    Comments, fans! What did you see? What did you love?


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