April 28, 2007 Toronto FC lose 1-0 in home opener to Kansas City (from Canadian Press)
Toronto drops home opener
Kansas City plays spoiler
By NEIL DAVIDSON
TORONTO (CP) - Toronto FC is still looking for its first goal and points, but the 0-4 expansion MLS side showed signs Saturday afternoon that teams coming to BMO Field will face a hostile reception.
U.S. international striker Eddie Johnson spoiled Toronto's coming out-party at home with an 81st-minute goal that gave the Kansas City Wizards a 1-0 win before a near sellout of 20,148 at the smart $62.9-million stadium near the waterfront.
Toronto was beaten 3-0 in Kansas City on Wednesday in a rain-soaked game that drew just 7,438 to cavernous Arrowhead Stadium.
"Toronto's going to win a lot of games here," predicted Johnson, who now has three goals in four games. "It was tough to play here. They had the fans behind them, they were pumped up from the opening whistle. They come out with a lot of enthusiasm and showed a lot of character.
"A totally different team than Wednesday."
Toronto had a go at the 3-1 Wizards in the first half and probably deserved a point out of the afternoon. But it lacks the predator up front that Kansas City possesses in Johnson.
"In the first half we had them on the rack and we just couldn't get the ball over the line," said Toronto coach Mo Johnston.
The fans did not disappoint as big league soccer came to Canada.
"Boy I tell you, they're into the game," MLS commissioner Don Garber said appreciatively at halftime. "We don't have too many stadiums that rock like this one."
The crowd belted out O Canada, stomped their feet and enthusiastically cheered on the home side-something new in a multicultural city where over the years the visiting team has often been better received than the national side in internationals.
Johnston called it a "European atmosphere," boasting Toronto fans will be the toast of MLS.
"Our fans were magnificent," said Johnston. "For the first time in a long time I've had goose-bumps at a game. I felt they were wonderful and I feel really bad sending them home obviously losing 1-0."
It was a festive occasion, despite cloudy grey conditions and temperatures hovering around 11 degrees - and feeling chillier - for the lunchtime kickoff. The spotlights were turned on for the occasion.
There were a few empty seats but the 14,000 season ticket-holders were easy to spot - they wore free Toronto FC scarves, rewards for their investment in the franchise. The extra layer would have been appreciated on the day.
Toronto defender Jim Brennan, a veteran of English soccer, said the reception exceeded the players' expectations.
"The guys were overwhelmed when we came out," said the Toronto captain. "We didn't think it was going to be this good. The fans were so supportive. We're just disappointed that we didn't get a result for them today."
Toronto is still working out the kinks, on and off the field. A fan snuck into Johnston's post-game news conference, holding his scarf up high.
Toronto had lost its three previous outings on the road, outscored 9-0 by Chivas USA, the New England Revolution and Kansas City. Still the home side came out with a spring in its step Saturday, playing an uptempo game that caused the Wizards more and more problems as the first half wore on. Kansas City was on the back foot when the whistle for halftime blew.
Johnston called Saturday's showing a "vast improvement," but lamented his team's decision to sit back in a second half that he called "very, very negative." That opened the door to Kansas City to cause problems on the counter-attack.
Johnson decided the game when he took the ball on the right side of the penalty box, cut inside and fired a low shot that deflected slightly off Brennan en route to finding the corner of the goal past the outstretched hand of Greg Sutton. Johnson was rewarded with a few drinks flung in his direction from the south stand as the Wizard players celebrated in front of the Toronto FC's supporters club.
"It was a slack goal," said Johnston.
Toronto FC's message on the board in the dressing room was "Leave everything on the field."
"They did that today," said Johnston.
In the Kansas City locker-room, the board read simply "3 pts."
Newly signed forward Danny Dichio, 6-3 and 209 pounds, was a one-man wrecking crew up front for Toronto, leaving a trail of fallen Wizards in his path on the artificial turf as he threw his weight around. While not blessed with speed, the veteran English striker has more than his share of brawn and isn't afraid to use it.
"Danny's something different and they didn't like playing against him." Johnston said. "He's someone who's very awkward, but again we need guys who can get in around him."
Johnston hopes the return of Irish midfielder Ronnie O'Brien, expected back from injury next time out, will create more chances.
Toronto's best chance of the first half came in the 33rd minute after Alecko Eskandarian dribbled through a pair of defenders on the right and found Andy Welsh on the other side of the box. The goalkeeper was beaten but Welsh's shot was cleared by a defender before it hit the target.
Johnston dropped defender Marco Reda, replacing him with New Zealand's Andrew Boyens.
"I felt on Wednesday that Marco is still not ready yet for the pace of the game here in the MLS," he explained.
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