April 28, 2007 MLS Toronto FC lose 1-0 to Kansas City Wizards (from Toronto Star)

TFC chasing elusive goal

Coach Johnston inserts 6-foot-4 Dichio to create havoc in Kansas City's defence, by Morgan Campbell

Apr 28, 2007 04:30 AM
Morgan Campbell

At the end of yesterday's practice, Toronto FC midfielder Andy Welsh stood on the left wing and lofted passes toward the goalmouth, where forward Danny Dichio was supposed to knock them into the net.

One header ricocheted at a strange angle past the net. Later Dichio's volley wobbled weakly over the crossbar.

Dichio, who signed with Toronto two weeks ago, will make his debut today as winless, goalless Toronto FC faces the Kansas City Wizards in the inaugural game at BMO Field.

Though visa problems kept him from playing in Toronto's 3-0 loss in Kansas City on Wednesday, Dichio figures to start today and, watching him scatter Welsh's crosses, it's clear he's not in there for his touch. In his last two seasons with Preston of England's Championship League, Dichio scored only seven goals.

He's in there for contact, and he knows it.

"(My job is to) bring a physical presence to the team offensively and defensively," said the Englishman, who stands 6-foot-4. "I'm going to bruise the defenders a bit and battle my way around."

Toronto FC head coach Mo Johnston sounded a little like a hockey coach yesterday when he described how Kansas City defenders Nick Garcia and Jimmy Conrad bullied Toronto's forwards with impunity on Wednesday night. Johnston says Dichio's presence changes the flavour of the game.

"Garcia and Conrad got away too easy," Johnston said. "Garcia got in four or five of our guys' faces. I hope he does that with Dichio, because it won't happen."

Johnston expects the 6-foot-4 forward to function like Pittsburgh Penguins' Georges Laraque of the soccer pitch, banging bodies to give players like Alecko Eskandarian room to operate.

Dichio knows his role and accepts it.

"It may not be pretty at times, but if it gets results then that's what I'm going to do," Dichio said.

The addition of Dichio is the latest in a series of lineup changes for Toronto, which is the only team in Major League Soccer that hasn't scored a goal yet.

First-round draft pick Maurice Edu made his first start on Wednesday after sitting out all of training camp and the season's first two games with a stress fracture in his pelvic bone.

Newly acquired defenders Marvell Wynne and Kevin Goldthwaite also became instant starters on Wednesday, but their presence didn't stop Kansas City from scoring three goals, including one in the fifth minute from standout striker Eddie Johnson.

Through three games Toronto has surrendered nine goals, more than any other MLS team.

Still Johnston remains confident that his reconfigured lineup will win some games eventually.

After opening the season with three straight games on the road, Toronto plays four games at home until late May.

"We're starting to get a group together and we're starting to train properly," Johnston said. "I've never seen any team win a championship in April. We've got four games here and we've got to start picking up points."

NOTES: Midfielder Ronnie O'Brien, practised yesterday with a brace on his right knee. Johnston said O'Brien might come in as a substitute today.

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