March 21, 2009 Kansas City vs Toronto FC (from MLSnet.com)

Reds top KC for first opener win
Guevara scores twice to power Toronto to 3-2 victory
03/21/2009 11:00 PM
By Bob Rusert / MLSnet.com Staff

Opening win a breakthrough for TFC

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Toronto FC began their 2009 MLS campaign Saturday evening by grabbing a 3-2 win over the Kansas City Wizards at a sold-out CommunityAmerica Ballpark. Team captain Jim Brennan put Toronto in the lead late in the first half and two goals from Amado Guevara in the second half sealed the historic win.

Davy Arnaud scored two remarkable goals for the home side, but they weren't enough as the triumph was the Reds' first season-opening away win in their short three-year history.

Pointing to TFC's only four wins away from BMO Field in their first two seasons, head coach John Carver said away form was critical to Toronto FC's goal of making the MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time in club history. The offseason additions of MLS veterans Dwayne De Rosario and back Adrian Serioux upped the depth and quality of the side, one fit for more success on the road. Yet Carver chose to give rookie goalkeeper Stefan Frei the start between the posts ahead of incumbent Greg Sutton.

With Serioux sweeping away wayward Wizards balls in the back and a possession-oriented attack, TFC created three chances within the first 12 minutes. All fell to forward Chad Barrett, and two saw the 23-year-old in alone on Wizards' goalkeeper Kevin Hartman.

Barrett sent a chip high over the goal after being put through from a long pass from right back Marvell Wynne, sent a poor clearance screaming just above the crossbar from the 18, and then caught the turf on the third attempt as he came in from the left after De Rosario's feed split the K.C. defense.

It wasn't until the 24th minute that Kansas City posed a serious threat. Given space on the left, forward Herculez Gomez struck for the near post, forcing first-round SuperDraft choice Frei to dive down to the right for his first save since ending his collegiate career with the University of California.

But while the Wizards began to hold more possession, Toronto FC had found the time to strike. With the Wizards pressing the attack, Brennan stripped Kansas City rookie Graham Zusi near midfield on the left, clipped the ball into De Rosario, and hit the space behind the defense. Nine yards out on the left, Brennan got the ball back and beat Hartman high inside the near post for the lead in the 33rd minute.

The goal marked the first time the Reds had ever scored and led in a season opener, and the lead held for halftime.

Toronto would have to continue working to earn the win though as Kansas City increased the offensive pressure from the second-half whistle, bringing on second-year midfielder Roger Espinoza and removing center back Aaron Hohlbein.

Despite K.C. again holding the better of the possession, the Reds took their opportunities and kept the pressure firmly on the home side. It was the battle-tested Guevara who would double the lead.

Receiving a pass from midfield workhorse Carl Robinson in the 53rd minute, the Honduran international turned 360 on Wizards right back Jonathan Leathers and drilled the ball into the right corner of Hartman's net. The realization of a sudden two-goal lead sent Guevara's teammates and the more than 100 Reds supporters perched high behind the TFC bench into near-delirium.

Another Wizards flurry followed as Herculez Gomez whipped a shot that sailed just above the bar two minutes later. Then Kansas City struck blood in awe-inspiring fashion. Settling from a Claudio Lopez pass from his right, Arnaud loaded his left boot from 25 yards and unleashed a bullet into the right upper corner of Frei's goal to give the home side a chance in the 55th minute. Once again, the Wizards had found inspiration from their tireless sparkplug.

Toronto kept their heads, allowing for a Guevara encore. In the 62nd minute, Robinson picked out De Rosario inside the left of the Wizards box. The Canadian native, in his first match for Toronto, pinged a shot that Hartman parried aside. The alert Guevara ran through the pack and nailed the rebound past the prone goalkeeper to restore the two-goal advantage.

But there was plenty of time left, and Kansas City was not ready to crumble. Recent Argentinean acquisition Santiago Hirsig entered the fray for the Wizards after the goal and paid dividends just 14 minutes later. After taking a pass from Espinoza, Hirsig found Arnaud in a central position 22 yards out. Arnaud would follow Guevara's act and rip his second score of the night with a blistering shot into the net in the 76th minute.

As the two sides continued their push-and-pull, fate intervened when Wizards fullback Michael Harrington was called for a seemingly inadvertent handball in the 80th minute. De Rosario stepped up to take the kick with the chance to put his side comfortably ahead with 10 minutes to go. But his attempt rose high and the drama would continue.

After the final minutes wound down, Toronto FC had pulled off a dream start with the 3-2 win. Next Saturday the Reds will be in Columbus to try and make it two road wins in a row while Kansas City is at Colorado.

Bob Rusert is a contributor to MLSnet.com.

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