April 5, 2007 Chivas USA vs Toronto FC pre-game set-up (from MLS.net)

04/05/2007 7:00PM
Curtain raises on Toronto FC
MLSnet.com Staff

7:30 p.m. PT (FSC/FSE; RSN [Canada])
April 7, 2007 (WEEK 1) / MLS Game #5

It will be a night of historic proportions at The Home Depot Center as Toronto FC makes their debut against Chivas USA. The first Major League Soccer club from Canada, Toronto FC begins play as the 13th team in the league. They will be taking on a Chivas USA team just two years removed from its bow, a unique club in its own right, a sister club to Mexican powerhouse CD Guadalajara which last year reached the MLS Cup Playoffs.

REFEREE: Terry Vaughn. SAR (bench): Chris Strickland; JAR (opposite): Paul Scott; 4th: Ramon Hernandez
MLS Career: 71 games; FC/gm: 31.0; Y/gm: 3.9; R: 22; pens: 21
Games involving Chivas USA: P3 W1 L1 T1; FC/gm: 27.0; Y/gm: 4.0; R: 0; pens: 3
Games involving Toronto FC: first game

INJURY REPORT: CHIVAS USA - OUT: FW David Arvizu (lower back strain); PROBABLE: MF Orlando Pérez (L groin strain); DF Jonathan Bornstein (L MCL sprain) ...
TORONTO FC - OUT: MF Maurice Edu (groin), MF Ronnie O'Brien (knee), DF Chris Pozniak (hamstring); PROBABLE: FW Conor Casey (thigh), MF Paulo Nagamura (calf), DF Marco Reda (thigh), FW Andy Welsh (groin)


ALL-TIME: First meeting

It's the first meeting between the two clubs in the opener for the newest team in MLS, against a club just two years old in Chivas USA, which came in as an expansion club for the 2005 season.
Coaches record: Preki vs. TOR: first game... Mo Johnston v CHV: P3 W2 L0 D1

A year ago, in just its second season, Chivas USA reached the MLS Cup Playoffs and pressed eventual MLS Cup champion Houston Dynamo to the limit before falling in the Western Conference semifinals. Now, MLS legend Preki takes over the reins of the club, after Bob Bradley left to take over the helm of the U.S. national team program.

Chivas USA completed their preseason with a 1-0 victory against the Chicago Fire on March 31 in Ridgeland, Miss. The game's only goal of the game came in the 29th minute, as Chivas USA midfielder Sacha Kljestan received a pass 25 yards from goal and dropped a no-look back pass to Ante Razov, whose left-footed strike from 30 yards out beat Matt Pickens just inside the right post. Chivas played the final 22 minutes a man down after Jesse Marsch was sent off.

Here's Preki's team: Brad Guzan - Lawson Vaughn, Jason Hernandez, Claudio Suarez, Alex Zotinca - Amado Guevara, Jesse Marsch, Francisco Mendoza - Ante Razov (John Cunliffe 72), Maykel Galindo (Matt Taylor 62), Sacha Kljestan (John Thorrington 45). It was the only victory against an MLS team for Chivas this preseason. "The exercise on Saturday against Chicago was pretty decent," Chivas USA coach Preki said. "The mentality of the players was good. I was happy with the way we closed the game, winning 1-0 and being a man down. I think we showed character and the will to win and I think that's very important to go into the season."

The result was also achieved with a change in the team's focus. A season ago, Chivas USA had a much more successful preseason on their way to a first-ever playoff berth.

"The results in the games we've played haven't been the best as compared to last year. I think we won a lot of games in the preseason last year but it's a little different," Chivas USA midfielder Sacha Kljestan said. "I feel good about what's going on with the team, how we're moving, how we're shaping up. I'm pretty excited for the season to start." Said Claudio Suarez: "The games we've had, we've committed some mistakes. It's almost as if the group is a bit too relaxed, like we're waiting for something meaningful to start so we can tighten up."

Preki was guarded about his team, but the XI he ran out against the Fire in Mississippi could well be his first-choice group for the opener against Toronto FC. As he has tended toward during the offseason, Preki used a 4-3-3 scheme. "Nothing is certain," he said. "Players are working hard and fighting for their spots and that's how we want it to be."

There will be a significant absence for Preki as the 2006 MLS Rookie of the Year, Jonathan Bornstein, will be out for the opening few weeks while recuperating from a sprained knee suffered while with the U.S. national team.

"Through the games in the preseason, Pancho (Francisco Mendoza) and Sacha (Kljetstan) have been doing very well," Bornstein said. "We've got a couple of players around them like Amado (Guevara) and (Alex) Zotinca on the right side and it's taken a little bit of time to get used to. All three of us when the season starts will be good to go and hopefully produce a lot."


It has been a unique start for a unique club in Toronto FC, but by most observers Mo Johnston has constructed a club that can compete from the outset. Toronto FC will be a Canadian-based team, meaning, for example, U.S. players will count against the club's Senior International limit.

TFC concluded their preseason with a week in Charleston, S.C. at the Carolina Challenge Cup, where they completed a small piece of history.

In their opening match of the event, goals from Ryan Cochrane and Chris Wondolowski gave Houston Dynamo a 2-0 victory (March 24). But on March 28, Toronto won a game for the first time in club history in any form, defeating the New York Red Bulls 2-1.

Alecko Eskandarian side-footed home a Ronnie O'Brien cross in the ninth minute to put TFC into the lead, but John Wolyniec pulled the Bulls level in the 21st minute. But O'Brien again played provider 15 minutes later, curling in a freekick that Edson Buddle nodded home at the back post, and the goal held up for the eventual match-winner.

Here's Mo Johnston's team for the historic win: Greg Sutton, Andrew Boyens, Adam Braz, Jim Brennan, Ronnie O'Brien, Richard Asante, Jose Cancela (David Guzman 58 / Miguel Canizalez 79), Richard Mulrooney, Loes Andrade (Chris Pozniak 22), Alecko Eskandarian, Edson Buddle.

Then on March 31, TFC followed that up with a dominant 3-0 victory against host Charleston Battery of the USL First Division (second tier). Alecko Eskandarian continued his early goal gathering, putting TFC ahead after just three minutes, before Abbe Ibrahim doubled the lead in the 35th minute. Edson Buddle rounded out the scoring in the 73rd minute.

Here's Johnston's team: Greg Sutton, Andrew Boyens, Adam Braz (Tyler Hemming 89), Jim Brennan, Chris Pozniak, Ronnie O'Brien, Richard Asante (Miguel Canizales 56), Richard Mulrooney, Abbe Ibrahim (Jose Cancela 53), Alecko Eskandarian, Edson Buddle (Joey Melo 88). Toronto's roster is expected to increase soon when forward Andy Welsh, most recently with Sunderland in the English Premier League, signs a contract, as does Togolese international Abbe Ibrahim. However, Ibrahim's status is trickier, as he is waiting for a visa in order to enter Canada. Ibrahim has been training with TFC for the past few weeks and could play with the team while they are still in the USA.

Johnston will have some injury woes for the club's first-ever game, as Ronnie O'Brien and Maurice Edu - the first overall pick in the 2007 SuperDraft - will be out through injury. O'Brien suffered a tear to the medial collateral ligament in his left knee that will sideline him for 4-6 weeks. In addition, striker Conor Casey and midfielder Paulo Nagamura have been slowed though should be available.

O'Brien's place in the lineup will be filled by Welsh international midfielder Carl Robinson, who this week trained with the club for the first time in a month. "There's always pressure on a footballer," said Robinson, who has been capped 36 times by Wales, to the Toronto Star. "It's part of the job, especially in England and now here in Canada. I'm quite happy to play under pressure because it brings out the best in me."

Johnston has kept a number of young Canadians on his roster, including a trio of Canada U-20 national teamers (19-year-olds A.J. Gray, Stephen Lumley and Andrea Lombardo), as well 20-year-old Richard Asante of and 21-year-old Tyler Hemming, who are both from Toronto suburbs.

"This is a group of guys that can win some games and I expect nothing less than to have some points when we leave Los Angeles Saturday night," Johnston said to The (Toronto) Sun. "I think our coaches have done a helluva job bringing in players capable of winning at the MLS level."

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