Skip to main content

Toronto FC players celebrate the game-winning goal by Dwayne De Rosario last night at BMO Field. TFC topped Philadelphia 2-1 in their 2010 season home opener. Photo by Peter Power / The Globe and Mail

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

If only you could grow a successful soccer team with a watering can.

While the new, $3.5-million natural grass field passed its first true test with flying colours last night, the players it was laid down for laboured to a 2-1 win over the expansion Philadelphia Union.

Admittedly, Toronto FC head coach Predrag (Preki) Radosavljevic's team is undoubtedly still a work in progress, owing to near-wholesale changes over the winter, but there was none of the free-flowing soccer that so many of the players felt was possible once the unforgiving, slick-surfaced FieldTurf was ripped up after last season.

Story continues below advertisement

"It was a very, very disappointing first half," Preki said. "I thought we came out and we were nervous. I almost felt we were scared to play. Is it because we were at home with the crowd and expectations? I don't know, I couldn't figure it out."

Still, with two consecutive road losses to open their fourth Major League Soccer season, the three points will be a welcome tonic for an exasperated TFC fan base desperate to finally make the playoffs this year - especially with MLS Cup to be held at the Toronto venue in November.

That may yet prove to be a night to remember, but facing opposition goalkeepers like Chris Seitz will certainly help along the way. It was a night to forget for the Philadelphia stopper, who could only fumble Dwayne De Rosario's free kick over the line for the opener after 35 minutes, before gifting Toronto the penalty that De Rosario converted for the win.

Attacking soccer was by and large an afterthought for much of the opening 45 minutes. Setting out his stall in a 4-5-1 lineup - although Preki later claimed it was supposed to be a 4-3-3 formation - the coach seemed to be solely interested in kicking the visitors into submission.

His squad did a good job in that regard, with a pair of newcomers - fullbacks Maksim Usanov and Raivis Hscanovics - picking up bookings for reckless sliding tackles, while Martin Saric was lucky to escape a yellow card for repeat offences in the middle of the park.

"If you want me to bring a lot of ballerinas, I will," Preki sarcastically said of his side's pugnacity later.

However, while neither side pulled any punches, it was left to Philadelphia - nominally the expansion side in this battle of two of the league's most-recent additions - to truly fall afoul of a refereeing decision.

Story continues below advertisement

Union captain Danny Califf has doubtless played better back-passes than the one he sent in the direction of goalkeeper Chris Seitz in the 34th minute, but it certainly didn't necessitate the pole-axing move that followed on pursuing Toronto midfielder Julian de Guzman. Referee Baldomero Toledo showed little hesitation in reaching for his pocket for the red card, and with the visitors down to 10 men, Toronto drove home the advantage from the resulting free kick.

Far from cowed by the situation, the visitors fought back though, equalizing in added time at the end of the first half, when defender Jordan Harvey capitalized on a static back line to sweep home Roger Torres's pass. "In all honesty, I couldn't wait for the half-time," Preki said.

Maybe it was the prospect of facing 10 men, or maybe he just felt like opening the game up, but the former MLS coach of the year shuffled his deck, sending on forwards O'Brian White and Chad Barrett to signal a more attacking intent in the second half.

His team certainly responded to the changes, outchancing the visitors 10-5 after the break, and though many went begging - Barrett's header from de Guzman's cross chief among them - White finally won the penalty when the unfortunate Seitz brought him down needlessly in the area.

Report an error Licensing Options
About the Author


Comments are closed

We have closed comments on this story for legal reasons. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.