March 29, 2007 Toronto FC beats New York Red Bull in Carolina Challenge Cup (from Toronto Star)

Toronto FC scores first win in Carolina

Buddle nets winner as Toronto edges N.Y. MLS club in Cup tourney

Mar 29, 2007 04:30 AM

DANIEL ISLAND, S.C.ľAs Toronto FC and the New York Red Bulls kicked off last night, exactly 12 fans dotted Blackbaud Stadium's eastern stands, slumping in seats and sprawling across bleachers.

Heading into the second round of the Carolina Challenge Cup, the tournament's atmosphere was as laid back as the local lifestyle.

But on the field, where Toronto defeated New York 2-1, the intensity remained as high as ever.

Toronto scored less than 10 minutes into the game when forward Alecko Eskanderian scored on a pass from midfielder Ronnie O'Brien. A header from New York's John Wolyniec 11 minutes later tied the game before Toronto's Edson Buddle scored the winner in the 36th minute.

New York had a chance to tie the game late in the second half when a handball by Toronto's Jim Brennan forced a penalty kick. New York's David van den Bergh's shot was saved by goalkeeper Greg Sutton.

Last night's win for Toronto was the first of the pre-season against a pro team. Last Saturday FC opened the tournament with a 2-0 loss to the Houston Dynamo.

Toronto closes the tournament on Saturday against the Charleston Battery.

"This game was definitely important for us," said Buddle, a New York native who played for the Red Bulls last season. "Nothing against Charleston, but they're an A-League team. We wanted to see how we matched up against MLS teams. That's a better gauge for us, being a brand new team."

But head coach Mo Johnston didn't read much into last night's win.

"I'm proud of the guys for fighting for 90 minutes," Johnston said. "But it has to get better because it's not good enough. I'm happy for the guys. They got the monkey off their back, but there's a lot of hard work to do."

Now in its fourth year, the tournament takes place on Daniel Island, a serene upper middle-class enclave across the river from the rest of Charleston, S.C. Most buildings are less than a decade old on Daniel Island, so small it has only three traffic lights and no McDonald's.

Blackbaud Stadium sits just south of a pond and just east of a forest where just before game time, three hawks circled above the treetops searching for prey.

Late in the first half, with the score tied 1-1 and Toronto's O'Brien set to take a free kick, Buddle was doing the same thing.

As O'Brien's kick sailed toward the goal mouth Buddle rose high above a New York defender and headed the ball in to break the tie.

"It's just climb up and get it," he said.

The goal drew groans from the small group of New York supporters, and cheers from an even smaller group of Toronto fans.

Dressed in Toronto FC jerseys, Mike Miller and Josey Jean-Louis stood out among the sparse crowd.

They planned their vacation around this tournament, and drove 18 hours from Russell, Ont., 30 minutes east of Ottawa to watch Toronto FC play.

Their dedication is not surprising. Miller coached youth soccer for 25 years and is now a referee. Their hometown has 3,500 residents and 1,200 registered soccer players.

"I'm just a soccer fanatic, and (Toronto FC) is something that's been waiting to happen," Miller said. "I don't think it's a one-year phenomenon."

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