April 27, 2011 MLS--Reds Ride Their Advantage (from TorontoFC.ca)
Reds Ride Their Advantage Asif Hossain Edmonton Commonwealth Stadium - April 27. 2011 Defining Moment After trading chances, a red card to FC Edmonton's Shaun Saiko at the 23rd minute opened up space for Toronto FC to exploit the Monties and take a 3-0 aggregate lead following the first leg of their Nutrilite Canadian Championship semifinal. The teams will play again on May 4 in the return match at BMO Field. Saiko made club history when he became Edmonton's first player to score for the team in its inaugural North American Soccer League season. In the NCC the Canadian midfielder put his name on another first, but one he will not remember fondly. Saiko challenged for a 50-50 ball against Toronto's Oscar Cordon, but the Edmonton man arrived late, his two-footed lunge on the TFC teen was enough for referee Paul Ward to reach for the red card. Pitch Battles In a battle of two Dutch coaches the match had a wide open feel with Edmonton nearly catching Toronto by surprise on a free kick before the Reds created a fantastic chance at the 21st minute for Cordon. Toronto played its familiar 4-3-3 formation, while Edmonton employed a 4-4-2 lineup and seemed content to catch the Reds on counter-attack chances. Toronto had a decisive advantage on the right side of the pitch with Richard Eckersley's daring runs complemented by Joao Plata's sharp passing. The pair set up Cordon for a scuffed shot before the man advantage. Plata's exploits continued following the red card to Saiko, as the Ecuadorian assisted on the first goal finding Maicon Santos on top of the six-yard box for an uncontested finish. Man of the Match Toronto's attack was ruthless until the match was put beyond reach shortly after the hour mark. Maicon became the obvious front runner for MOTM when he took his second goal on a keeper error. He could've had a hat-trick but for hitting the crossbar before half. Reds' other attacking players deserve recognition for their efforts as well. Plata had a tremendous night, setting up not just Maicon but starting the play that created Gordon's first NCC goal at the 47th minute. The American striker can make a claim for his valuable contribution as an aerial target. Elsewhere on the pitch Eckersley made the most of his 45 minutes in a first start for Toronto, galloping up the right side as expected of fullbacks in Aron Winter's 4-3-3 formation. Starting XI Edmonton - Rein Baart; Alex Surprenant, Paul Hamilton, Dominic Oppong, Antonio Rago; Shaun Saiko, Kyle Yamada, Chris Kooy, Chris Lemire; Conrad Smith, Kyle Porter ... Ejection: Saiko 23' Toronto – Stefan Frei; Danleigh Borman, Ty Harden, Dicoy Williams, Richard Eckersley (Dan Gargan); Tony Tchani, Oscar Cordon, Maicon Santos; Mikael Yourassowsky, Alan Gordon (Jacob Peterson), Joao Plata (Nick Soolsma) ... Subs not used: Milos Kocic, Nana Attakora, Adrian Cann, Nathan Sturgis ... Goals: Maicon 35' 61' Gordon 47' ... Caution: Gordon 44' Following Fixture MLS Match 8 Saturday, April 30 10 p.m. ET GOL TV Canada After starting the season winless in four, Seattle has won two of their last three matches including a shock upset of MLS Cup champion Colorado 1-0 away from home last week. Those early draws to start the season have added up for the Sounders and they are now unbeaten in five MLS matches. Seattle did suffer a massive setback in the Colorado victory when they lost influential winger Steve Zakuani for an indefinite amount of time after the playmaker broke his leg on a challenge by Brian Mullan. Preki Post Game Toronto is now unbeaten in six NCC matches. In 2010 when the tournament was a round robin format, the Reds came through unbeaten in four, then overcame Motagua in the Champions League preliminary round on way to the group stage. Toronto's last loss in NCC came on June 2, 2009 in Vancouver when the Whitecaps beat TFC 2-0. Toronto made up for it in a big way 16 days later punishing Montreal 6-1 to win its first trophy. Reds' return leg against Edmonton is on Wednesday May 4 at BMO Field. Vancouver beat Montreal 1-0 on Wednesday night at the Impact's Saputo Stadium to take a lead back home. The Whitecaps will look to close out the series and face the winner of Toronto-Edmonton over two legs for a place in the 2011/12 CONCACAF Champions League preliminary round. In Their Words "Today we gave some players a rest and it was an opportunity for players who didn't play the last month. On the performance, I wasn't satisfied because we respect our opponent and we started well, but when you are a man up you have to see the game through and that's why I'm not satisfied the way we played, but about the result I'm satisfied." - Toronto head coach Aron Winter. "It was a good result for us, we were happy the way we played, we played together we played as a team, moved the ball and got a good result. It's going to be a difficult (second leg) - like the coach said, they don't have anything to lose, we have lots to lose. It's going to be hard they are going to try to do what we did here." - Toronto midfielder/captain Maicon Santos. "Obviously the game changed when they went down a man. We have to take better care with our chances. At halftime it (had) to be 3-0 if not more. The game has to be over and done with ... the second half we were a lot better, we kept the ball and made them run ... they are still on it, they are probably going to come out and try to get the same result at BMO next week." - Toronto goalkeeper Stefan Frei.
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