April 23, 2009 MLS Toronto FC vs Chivas USA (from MLSnet.com)

Reds Show Balance In Big Win
04/23/2009 02:06 AM
By Mark Polishuk / MLSnet.com Staff

Toronto FC's players and coaching staff have talked at length this season about how so many of the team's problems seem to stem from defensive breakdowns at key moments, and the Reds' seeming inability to keep up their intensity for an entire match. On Wednesday night, TFC seemed to solve both of these problems in a 1-0 win against Chivas USA. Against an unbeaten Red-and-White side who entered the game tied for second in the league with eight goals scored, Toronto delivered a sterling defensive effort that limited Chivas to a mere three shots.

"Defensively things were right for us today," said team captain Jim Brennan. "We had good shape, good balance and we made it very difficult for them."

Entering the match, only FC Dallas (10) had conceded more goals than Toronto's nine. But against Chivas, the Reds would not allowed themselves to be broken down. It seemed as if Chivas couldn't attempt a pass without a TFC player getting in the way to either intercept the effort or prevent it from happening in the first place.

The end result was an easy night for Toronto rookie goalkeeper Stefan Frei, who needed to make only one save (a fairly innocuous direct free kick from Sacha Kljestan in the 41st minute) to record the first clean sheet of his young career.

Given his light workload, Frei gave all the credit to the shutout to his teammates.

"It was the perfect day for me," Frei said. "I think I had just the one save to make, that was it. The guys did a terrific job throughout the 90 minutes, which was is what we wanted. Congrats to the guys, they made the job easy for me. ... We closed them down right away and defended as a team from the strikers all the way to the back.

"We've had a couple of games now where we've had partial games where we've played 45 minutes or 83 minutes. We needed to show a 90-minute good game like we did today. We came out strong and going into the half with the lead we knew we needed to come out of the locker room with that same power and effort."

Ironically, Toronto's starting XI for the game was formed with an emphasis on attack. Danny Dichio made his first start of the season at striker alongside Chad Barrett and Pablo Vitti in a 4-3-3 formation, and all three men up front created problems for the Chivas back line.

The pressure up front created more room for Amado Guevara to wreak havoc in his attacking midfield role, and it was the Honduran international who indeed delivered the key strike of the match. In the 36th minute, Guevara took a pass from Dichio down the center of the field within the Red-and-White penalty area and fought off two defenders to keep possession and eventually fire the ball into the back of the net for the game-winner.

"When I saw that the ball from Dichio, I knew that the ball was just right," Guevara said through a translator. "I just had to put the ball in the net, the play was [all Dichio]."

Dichio, Vitti and Marco Velez all started the game as the Reds made a few changes from the side that lost a 3-2 result to FC Dallas last Sunday and also lost Dwayne De Rosario to a hamstring injury. Perhaps the most noticeable change was on the sidelines, as assistant coach Chris Cummins took over the game-day duties while head coach John Carver watched the match from the press box.

Cummins declined to elaborate on why Carver had decided on the switch, but said he was happy to have the experience and was pleased that the team was able to hold on for the win after conceding late goals in their last two matches.

"[The last 10 minutes] felt like 30 minutes for me," Cummins said. "I thought they handled it very well. ... It's always nervy especially the way we conceded the goal last week, and we didn't want to do that this week."

Mirroring Carver's attitude about never getting too high or low about the team's performance, Cummins said that Wednesday's match was merely the first step towards Toronto achieving its potential.

"We're not going to go out there thinking we've cracked it and we're going to walk on with it. We've got to build on this," Cummins said. "We'll be keeping the players' feet firmly on the ground. There were some real positives tonight and there are some things we need to look at that we need to be better on, but generally we're chuffed with the three points."

The victory was TFC's first since their First Kick win in Kansas City on March 21. The Reds' record is now an even 2-2-2 and, should Chicago and New England both fail to win on the road on Saturday, TFC would vault into first place in the Eastern Conference by beating the Wizards.

"The most important thing is that we're in second place now," Guevara said. "And [after] Sunday's game, we have a chance to be in first place in this conference. I'm happy since it was the first win at home and we got what we wanted."

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