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Rival coaches looking forward to test
March 12, 2009, 7:24 AM
Filed under: Carolina Challenge Cup, John Carver, Real Salt Lake, Toronto FC

Toronto FC coach John Carver wasn’t joking when he said he wanted to win this year’s Carolina Challenge Cup.

Toronto FC, which went winless in the event a year ago, posted another strong performance Wednesday night in their 2-1 victory over D.C. United at Blackbaud Stadium.

Toronto FC will face unbeaten Real Salt Lake, a 2-1 winner over the USL First Division’s Charleston Battery, for the tournament crown Saturday night. D.C. United will take on Charleston in a rematch of last year’s U.S. Open Cup Final, in the second game of the doubleheader.

“I was still competitive on the sideline even up until the last minute,” Carver said. “I said I was quite embarrassed this time last year and I wanted to come down here and prove that we’re not a bad club. We were fantastic during stretches in the first half. We played some of the best stuff I’ve seen in a long time.

“All in all, it’s six points in the tournament and another 90 minutes for the guys and we’re exactly where we need to be before the Kansas game (March 21).”

Meanwhile, after getting thumped by RSL 3-0 in last Saturday night’s tournament opener, D.C. United coach Tom Soehn is still searching for answers.

“I thought (Toronto) just outworked and out-competed us in the first half and it showed all over the field,” Soehn said. “I think we had about 10 good minutes when we came out and then it was all them after that.

“In the second half we moved some things around and came out with a little bit of life. I think you use a game like this, a couple of weeks away from the opener, as a learning experience. In the first half you learn what you did wrong and build on what you right in the second half.”

Despite the two victories already this week, Carver could see plenty of room for improvement.

“I wish we could get a complete performance,” Carver said. “We showed some fantastic stuff in the first half and we could have put the game out of sight by halftime. The good thing is that we’re creating those chances.

“I can keep my enthusiasm down by watching the second half. The only thing I can take out of the last 45 minutes is that we dug in our heels and the guys showed some character. They’ve set the standard, not me, and now they’ve got to keep to that standard. If they drop below that standard, then I’ll be sure to let them know about it.”

Carver was especially pleased with the play of forward Pablo Vitti, who proved to be a dangerous weapon on the attack throughout the match.

“A lot of people have seen Pablo Vitti play and have already made opinions of him,” Carver said. “I’ve seen him play against us and I like what I saw from him. We tried to get him here earlier. He hasn’t had a great deal of football here lately. He had 60 minutes today and that’s progress. He had patches of good play.”

While RSL’s win over Charleston won’t make many highlight reels, it was a victory and head coach Jason Kreis will take it.

“The result was good,” Kreis said. “We’re at the point in the preseason when we’re talking about mentality and establishing a winning one, so I think the result was important.

“I don’t think the game itself was top-notch quality. I think that we have a little more to offer in that department, but at the end of the day we were happy with the result.”

Victories by Toronto FC and Real Salt Lake will make for a competitive match on Saturday night, even by preseason tournament standards.

“I think that Toronto is a very, very improved team from last year,” Kreis said. “I’m very impressed watching both of their games during the week. I think it will be a stern test for us and one I’m looking forward to.

“I think when you come into a situation like this it’s more about the lessons that need to be learned. The focus is more on the tactical aspects of the game. But now we’ve put a couple of wins under your belt and we go into this third game, switching gears with attitude that we’re going to win.”

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