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Lost opportunity for TFC in Champions League encounter

Manuel Mosquera (back) of Panama's Arabe Unido fights for the ball with Nana Attakora of Toronto FC during their CONCACAF Champions League soccer match in Panama City August 24, 2010.


The CONCACAF Champions League experienced some growing pains on Tuesday night as Toronto FC lost 1-0 to Panamanian team Arabe Unido, in La Choerrera, Panama.

The game as a whole has to be framed as an awful spectacle for what should be a showpiece for the region's top professional club competition.

Nevertheless, Toronto FC will surely look back at this game as a lost opportunity. The FieldTurf, tight field dimensions, an opponent missing two important starters along with a respectful allotment of TFC players to choose from, it presented the Toronto club with an opportunity to gain a valuable three points.

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But Predrag (Preki) Radosavljevic chose to field a weakened team - a gamble which backfired on the night.

If TFC rebounds against Real Salt Lake on Saturday then maybe the decision to rest some of the club's top players may be deemed worthwhile. Having said that, with RSL playing a day later in Mexico City, there was the opportunity to have accomplished both objectives.

As for the game, if you endured the full 93 minutes of the surreal encounter, you would likely need a couple of aspirins to clear the mind from some of the more farcical aspects of the game. The diving, the atrocious refereeing, the lack of discipline from some TFC players and even the questionable substitutions by Preki added to the confusion.

Not using Mista is clearly a tacit statement that all is not right within the changing room between coach and player. Fans, media and pundits alike can conjecture on what has gone on or what is happening but unless Preki is forthright then we will not be privy to what goes on behind closed doors.

Preki is an uncompromising coach and if there was a discipline issue after the New York Red Bulls game involving Mista then it is reasonable for a coach to act accordingly. However, keeping Dwayne De Rosario on the bench is always going to be a gamble and especially on a slick FieldTurf surface which would have suited the quick and agile Scarborough native.

As it was, Arabe Unido created more clear-cut chances even before Nick LaBrocca was unjustly red-carded. A foul on the goalkeeper? Yes, albeit unintentional. A yellow card? Maybe. A red? It seemed extremely harsh.

While there were other poor calls from the referee they were at least balanced for both teams. On one play by Arabe Unido they were clear through on goal but the referee called the play back and gave them a free kick.

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The Fuad Ibrahim sending-off for a second yellow for dissent can be deemed correct if the TFC player reacted verbally which it appeared he did but the referee clumsily got the original call wrong in the first place. It was all a bit Abbott and Costello-ish.

In the end, however, TFC created little, defended inconsistently, conceded the winning goal from a set play and then mixed it all up with a lack of discipline.

All in all it is a game to move on from but not one to forget. In fact, the game tape should be sent to Stephen Hart and then on to all national team players as a reminder of the conditions you can play under in CONCACAF.

So hopefully, all is not lost.

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