April 26, 2009 MLS Toronto FC vs Kansas City Wizards (from MLSnet.com)
Long Week Ends With Win
04/26/2009 10:55 PM
By Mark Polishuk / MLSnet.com Staff
TORONTO -- Arguably the busiest eight-day stretch in Toronto FC's short history ended exactly how the club wanted -- with the Reds in first place.
In a week that included two other games, an injury to star midfielder Dwayne De Rosario and the surprise resignation of head coach John Carver, TFC came into Sunday's match with the Kansas City Wizards using the tumult of the previous days as motivation -- and the 1-0 result indicates that the mindset worked.
"I don't think it was a distraction, I think it may egged us on a little bit," said forward Danny Dichio. "We wanted to show we have a great team spirit here and no matter what happens with the [coaching] staff or any of that ... we have to go out and show the fans that we're strong as a unit."
Dichio was a key figure in the victory, scoring the game's only goal in the 54th minute. After Marvell Wynne kept a Chad Barrett cross from going out of bounds, Wynne passed the ball to Sam Cronin in front of the net. Cronin found Dichio, and the veteran striker spun the ball inside the left corner and just over the line.
Dichio was happy that he was able to redeem himself after an earlier missed chance on the Barrett cross.
"Just before [the goal] there was a cross that came in, and the old Danny Dichio would've put away with the guy in front of me," Dichio said. "I was disappointed with that but it went out wide, winged it out there for a bit and then Sammy put a great ball in and I just managed to get a little hook on it and it went in the bottom corner. I was elated not only for myself but for the team. We've had a hard couple of days and we just wanted to get that win."
It was fitting that the goal came from the strike force, as Toronto's three-man forward unit of Dichio, Barrett and Pablo Vitti ran wild in the Kansas City end throughout the second half. Barrett and Vitti each had four shots, and though Barrett was pleased with the amount of pressure they put on K.C., he would've preferred that he or the other strikers would've converted a few more chances to put the game out of reach.
"You've got me the hard worker, Danny the bulldog who just runs at everything and Pablo the skillful Argentine," Barrett said. "So we've got all three things working. Everybody worked hard today, we created a lot of really good chances. We've just got to make it so that it's not so entertaining at the end. ... If [K.C.'s Herculez] Gomez had scored that goal [to tie], I would've felt like the worst person in Toronto."
Indeed, Gomez did have two shots on goal in the waning minutes of the game, but the attacking midfielder was denied both times by TFC goalkeeper Stefan Frei. Three of the rookie 'keeper's five saves came in the final four minutes of regulation time, but Frei held on for his second consecutive clean sheet.
While Frei shone at one end of the field, another TFC newcomer, Vitti, shone on the other. The young Argentinean was awarded man-of-the-match honors after wowing the BMO Field fans with some brilliant footwork and close calls on net. Perhaps his most spectacular play came just moments after the Dichio goal, when Vitti deked out three Kansas City defenders and just missed wide on what would've been a staple of MLS highlight reels for years.
Vitti felt his performance was due to his increasing ease at playing in MLS and alongside Dichio and Barrett.
"I'm used to training and playing on the turf and I'm more comfortable now playing with the team. Every day I feel more into the team," Vitti said through an interpreter. "I feel very good playing with those guys. On Wednesday's game and today's game they were perfect."
The game wasn't without a bit of embarrassment for the youngster. Vitti received a booking for removing his shirt to celebrate what he thought was his first MLS goal in the 52nd minute. However, Vitti didn't realize that the play had been called offside.
"I feel frustrated because it was going to be my first goal," Vitti said. "I feel bad. It could be next time. It was something really, really disappointing."
In the wake of Carver's sudden departure, assistant coaches Chris Cummins and Nick Dasovic were in charge of the team on Sunday, with Cummins being the official coach of record. The 4-3-3 formation that has come in the wake of the coaching shift (Cummins ran the sidelines on Wednesday as Carver delivered instructions and watched from a private box atop BMO Field) has been a big part of TFC's back-to-back victories, but Cummins noted that the scoring touch wasn't developed overnight.
"Good players can play in any system, any formation you put them in. It does take a bit of time to gel so it's not like we've just thrown them in there," Cummins said. "The lads have been together now a full preseason, the last seven games and it takes a bit of time to gel. The lads' fitness levels need to be up and they look like they've been playing together for ages.
"I thought the chances we created were first-class. I get worried when we don't create chances. We can always improve on the finishing."
TFC manager and director of soccer Mo Johnston said after the game that Cummins or Dasovic would be named interim head coach later in the week, and Cummins admitted that he would love to be in charge of the tight-knit Reds.
"I'd be silly to sit here and say no I don't," Cummins said. "This is a fantastic club, you look at the players and everyone seems to think how they'll react to all that's happened this week and that says it all right there. It's all about the club, it's all about the team. It's not about individuals."
The win improves TFC's record to 3-2-2, good for 11 points and a point ahead of Chicago and Kansas City for first place in the Eastern Conference. After playing three games in eight days, the Reds get a bit of break before playing host to division rivals Columbus on Saturday. Toronto already has a healthy respect for the MLS Cup winners after playing them seven times over the past three seasons, but facing the champions is hardly a source of intimidation after the week that the Reds have just completed.
"We kind of wanted to show the fans that we can't be rattled," Barrett said. "We've told everybody that we have a great locker room and we have a lot of pride in here. It's just another loss, losing our coach and it's another thing we have to rebound from but we're good professionals here. I'm sure [Carver] would be pleased to see that we got three points."
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