Toronto hopes Dichio sparks offence

TORONTO (CP) - Toronto FC hopes a big crowd and a big new striker will help break in BMO Field on a winning note Saturday against the Kansas City Wizards (12:30 p.m. ET).

The expansion MLS team slipped to 0-3 after a 3-0 loss in Kansas City on Wednesday. And coach Mo Johnston acknowledges his fledgling squad, which has been outscored 9-0 in three road games, has a way to go yet. "We're not even close, not even close," he said after practice Friday.

But the Scottish coach sees positive signs, starting with playing at home Saturday - the first of four straight at BMO Field.

"We'll go at Kansas City," he promised. "They had it fairly easy the other night. But on Saturday, they won't."

Johnston points to newly signed striker Danny Dichio as a major reason why. At six foot three, the former Preston North End forward is a formidable presence.

Johnston intimated that Dichio (pronounced DEEK-ee-oh) will make life difficult for the Kansas City defence,

"(Nick) Garcia and (Jimmy) Conrad, they're going to be in a game. That's for sure," Johnson said. "The aerial balls, they were challenging for everything, they were winning everything. They won't do that against Dichio."

Dichio will serve as a target man, holding the ball up and hopefully bringing fellow frontman Alecko Eskandarian into the game.

"He's going to attract a lot of players and give room to other guys to operate," said Toronto goalkeeper Greg Sutton. "When you have a guy like that, with the presence that he has, it's only going to be positive for our team up front."

Dichio looked forward to making his presence felt.

"I sure am. That's what I've come to this league for," the Englishman said. "I don't think they've seen it before.

"It might not be pretty at times but if it gets us results, that's what we've got to do."

Saturday's venue, BMO Field, is a smart 20,250-seat stadium at Exhibition Place overlooking Lake Ontario. There were some tickets available Friday but team officials are hoping for a sellout Saturday at the $62.9-million venue. Toronto FC capped season tickets after selling 14,000.

"It's a beautiful, beautiful stadium," said Johnston, before turning his attentions to the team playing in it.

"We've had growing pains, we've had a lot of difficulties in a lot of different areas which I'm not going to bore you with. But now we're starting to get the group together, now we're starting to train properly.

"So there's good points in there. I'm not going to come in and slaughter my players because they're trying their best."

Hobbled by a knee injury for the first three games, former all-star Ronnie O'Brien will be on the bench Saturday. Johnston said the Irish midfielder, who left the field with a visible limp Friday, will play a role.

Seventeen players have seen action for Toronto FC the first three games, with Johnston switching from a 3-5-2 formation for 4-4-2 last time out.

"These guys have ability," Johnston said. "They just need to learn from each other. They're still getting to know each other."

Against Kansas City, he also introduced new fullbacks in Marvell Wynne and Kevin Goldthwaite and was able to insert rookie midfielder Maurice Edu into the lineup.

Dichio replaces Edson Buddle up front, Edu moves to central midfield with Paulo Nagamura filling in for him on the right. Six-foot-four New Zealand defender Andrew Boyens starts in place of Marco Reda.

Two years ago, expansion Real Salt Lake notched its first MLS win in its home opener when it defeated the Colorado Rapids 1-0 after opening 0-1-1 on the road. It took fellow expansion side Chivas USA six matches to record its first victory that season - a 1-0 decision over visiting Real Salt Lake.

Toronto's run of losses has not deterred Johnston.

"I'm fine," he said. "It doesn't bother me. I've been through this all before."

Johnston has also not given up looking for talent, noting the team still has yet to use the so-called "designated player" roster spot. That's the salary cap exemption that the Los Angeles Galaxy used to sign David Beckham.

back to Toronto FC menu