March 8, 2007 Toronto FC coach Mo Johnson comments on exhibition games (from Globe and Mail)

POSTED ON: 08/03/07

Johnston keeps eye on big picture

From Friday's Globe and Mail

BRADENTON, FLA. Earl Weaver, the former Baltimore Orioles manager and a member of baseball's Hall of Fame, used to sum up spring-training games like this: "No one's going to give a damn in July if you lost a game in March."

Toronto FC coach Mo Johnston heard that quote yesterday and nodded his head.

"I understand that," he said.

Different sport, same philosophy.

That's the way Johnston approaches exhibition games as the first-year Major League Soccer club continues training at the IMG Academy, not far from where baseball's Pittsburgh Pirates conduct spring training.

Toronto FC had a two-week training session at the end of last month in Sunrise, Fla., returned to Toronto for a week and arrived in Bradenton last Monday. They will train here until March 16 before departing for South Carolina for a tournament.

Yesterday, Toronto FC defeated the University of Connecticut 4-0 in an exhibition game. "The pleasing part is we haven't been giving up many goals," Johnston said.

But mainly, he said, the stress is on such things as fitness, formations and bonding as a team.

"I'm not worried right now about results," he said. "The results mean nothing to me. Championships aren't won in Florida. They're won in November."

The MLS season will begin in April, with the championship scheduled for November.

"I'm not interested in how many goals are scored and who scored, I'm interested in gelling this team together," Johnston said. "We're a brand new team and it's going to take time."

Johnston would like to be able to put together a team that includes more of his front-line players to start games.

Marco Reda (quadriceps) and Ronnie O'Brien (knee) are injured. Maurice Edu (pelvis) has been injured for quite some time.

O'Brien injured his knee two weeks ago in an exhibition game in Sunrise, but Johnston said O'Brien should be able to resume training early next week. "That's a lot of money sitting on that bench," Johnston said. "Once we start getting all our guys on the field, we'll be okay."

Johnston said Conor Casey also has been hampered by minor injuries.

Later this month, Carl Robinson, who was signed from the English club Norwich City and just joined the team this week, will leave to play two international matches for Wales.

"I'd like to have our whole team here," Johnston said. "We're working on formations, we're working on certain things. It's difficult when you've got four or five guys that normally would start that are not on the field."

Toronto led 1-0 after the first half on a goal in the 27th minute from Alecko Eskandarian. Soon after, the former D.C. United player was hit with a mean tackle. He stayed in the game and eventually was replaced with Abbe Ibrahim.

Eskandarian had slight cramping in his calf.

"Eskandarian scored a nice goal, but there was a really stupid tackle on him," Johnston said. "Could have broken his leg there when that happens."

Ibrahim, Andrea Lombardo and Ivan Cadavieco scored second-half goals.

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