March 30, 2007 Toronto FC coach pines for full squad (from Globe and Mail)

POSTED ON: 30/03/07

Johnston pines for full squad
LARRY MILLSON
From Saturday's Globe and Mail

CHARLESTON, S.C. Toronto FC head coach Mo Johnston has said all along that the results of exhibition games during training camp are meaningless, even for a first-year team like his.

"Nobody's ever won a championships in Florida," he said when the team was training in Sunrise and Bradenton.

After Toronto FC defeated a Major League Soccer opponent for the first time in two tries, a 2-1 victory over the New York Red Bulls in a Carolina Challenge Cup game on Wednesday, he amended it to "nobody's ever won a championship in Charleston."

At least MLS championships aren't won there. The Charleston Battery, Toronto's opponent Sunday on the tournament's final night, play in the United Soccer League.

Charleston and MLS champion Houston Dynamo drew 1-1 on Wednesday. The Dynamo defeated Toronto 2-0 in the tournament opener at the Blackbaud Stadium last Saturday.

While discounting exhibition results, Johnston says the play of his team must generally improve. There should be improvement when some players who have been missing either through injury or international commitments return.

"We haven't had full squads," Johnston said.

While he appreciates the efforts of the players who have been with the team, he said, "We have to get better."

Asked for specifics, he had a long list. "Our overall play," he said. "Keeping the ball better, our movement, our defending, our midfield play, our forwards."

He praised goalkeeper Greg Sutton, who stopped a penalty kick late in Wednesday's game. "He's as good as there is in a goalkeeper," he said.

Conor Casey and Marco Reda have been hampered by injuries and have not played much. Promising Maurice Edu has not played at all because of injury, but is returning to form.

Recently acquired Andy Welsh was a late scratch on Wednesday because of injury. Johnston said Welsh has a slight groin injury. "We want to save him for next week," he said.

Carl Robinson has been away from the team, playing for Wales in two Euro 2008 qualifiers.

"I'm taking nothing away from our team," Johnston said. "All I'm saying is that we're an expansion team. We're going to get better. We're going to get better every game."

Midfielder Ronnie O'Brien, who has overcome a knee injury suffered late last month, set up both goals on Wednesday. "Ronnie O'Brien is a tremendous player," Johnston said. "Welsh is the same on the other [the left] side."

Johnston also looks for Edson Buddle, who scored the second goal on Wednesday, to have a good season. He has played most of his MLS career with Columbus and last year was with New York.

"There were a lot of people who have their doubts about Edson," Johnston said. "Edson's scored a lot of goals in preseason and he's looking sharp and I'm happy for him. [Alecko] Eskandarian is looking sharp. [Recently acquired] Richard Mulrooney is a tremendous help."

It must all come together by next Saturday, when Toronto FC will open its regular season against Chivas USA in Carson, Calif.

The games will mean something then.

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