March 28, 2011 MLS--Winter Humbled By Supporter Loyalty (from

Winter Humbled By Supporter Loyalty
Coach: fans were perfect although the weather wasn't.
Duane Rollins
March 28, 2011

TORONTO — Six words written on a banner hanging in BMO Field’s south end summed it up perfectly: Loyal we started, loyal we remain.

The banner described the sentiment of many TFC fans as their club opened its fifth home season with a decisive 2-0 win over the Portland Timbers on Saturday afternoon.

“They were great,” Toronto head coach Aron Winter said of the 20,086 home supporters. “They were perfect although the weather wasn’t.”

The result handed Winter his first career win as a head coach and helped erase the bad taste of a 4-2 defeat to the expansion Vancouver Whitecaps last Saturday.

Indeed, the home crowd braved sub-zero temperatures and remained in full voice throughout while seemingly moving past the frustrations exhibited toward the end of last season, which was marred by TFC's failure to make the playoffs and a ticket price dispute.

Echoing his head coach, goalkeeper Stefan Frei — who registered four keys saves and added an unlikely assist in the win — said the crowd was a determining factor in the positive result.

“Playing at home, in front of our home fans, the guys just were excited and up for it,” said Frei, who earned his 14th career clean sheet. “We played off of the crowd’s energy.”

Frei also suggested that the winter storm that hit Toronto on Wednesday was a factor in how the team played the game. With slippery parts of the pitch in the 18-yard box, the Reds played more direct than they did in Vancouver.

“You don’t want to mess around with [bad pitch conditions]," Frei said. “We played more balls forward."

When you consider that since Winter took charge, Toronto have sought to avoid playing route-one soccer, it was somewhat ironic that the game’s clinching goal came off a 70-yard dart of a pass from Frei to recent Dutch acquisition Javier Martina.

According to the 'keeper, Martina was his second option on the play.

“I actually was looking at [Dwayne De Rosario] up top," said Frei, "but my kicks tend to hook [to the right], so I looked at Martina.”

It was a good thing he did, because Martina made a brilliant one-touch lob over Portland goalkeeper Jake Gleeson to put the game out of reach.

“It was first-class,” Frei said of the goal.

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