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Tough home opener awaits TFC
April 3, 2009, 7:28 AM
Filed under: John Carver, Seattle Sounders FC, Toronto FC

Toronto FC coach John Carver played killjoy at training on Thursday by refusing to look past the expansion — and undefeated — Seattle Sounders FC as an automatic three points for his club in its home opener on Saturday.

“We won’t get carried away,” Carver said of what is a highly-anticipated home opener. “What I will say to the fans is, ‘Please be patient,’ it’s not a slam dunk three points on Saturday. There is a good side coming in here and we have to prepare as if we are playing against one of the best sides in MLS, which they are, and have no complacency.”

Seattle (2-0-0) arrives at BMO Field with two wins in its first two games, well ahead of the pre-season expectations placed on the expansion club. The Sounders defeated MLS Cup runner-up New York in the MLS curtain-raiser before blanking Carolina Challenge Cup winner Real Salt Lake to remain on top of both the Western and overall standings.

The Sounders owe the early season success to the play of American goalkeeper Kasey Keller, who was named MLS Player of the Week after posting consecutive shutouts. The last goalkeeper to win a MLS Player of the Week award was current San Jose Earthquakes ‘keeper Joe Cannon in the 2006 season.

“He is an experienced goalkeeper,” Chad Barrett said of fellow American Keller. “But keep in mind they played two home games. To have their first away game here in Toronto, he is going to get tested; and he knows that. Player of the week doesn’t mean anything now.”

Barrett’s focus, however, will be on his own form. Scoring nine goals after a mid-season trade to Toronto last summer, Barrett was a second-half substitute in the 1-1 draw with Columbus and has yet to find the score sheet in the new season.

“I just had a bad game (in Columbus), I’ll be honest,” Barrett explained. “My touch wasn’t there which affects my work ethic. But I got my mind on straight again. If I get the start this week I am going to come in and work my tail off.”

Toronto FC (1-1-0) is also ahead of pre-season projections by taking four of a possible six points from two road games to begin the season. In 2008 the club was dismal away from BMO Field, earning just 10 points in 15 road games. But when playing in front of the raucous home fans, Carver’s club is a different animal. Toronto registered 25 points at home in 2008, buoyed by a franchise best six-game undefeated streak in April and May.

Like Seattle, the strong play of Toronto’s goalkeepers is partially responsible for the impressive start to the season. Rookie Stefan Frei earned his first MLS victory in Kansas City before a first-half injury led to his substitution in the second game at Columbus. Canadian international Greg Sutton came on to keep Toronto in the game long enough to score the equalizer and stretch the undefeated start to the year.

Carver was not ready to name a starter for Saturday, but is pleased with the progress made by the injured Frei during the week.

“He has made progress this week, I am going to leave the decision until (Friday),” Carver said of the injured Frei. “He came in Wednesday when we were all off and I was happy with what he did, he has had another session today and he will have one tomorrow. Then I will make my mind up.”

Toronto FC may also be without two of its key players in the midfield as both Carl Robinson and Amado Guevara played in World Cup qualifiers mid-week. Robinson, who retired from international play with Wales after a loss to Germany on Wednesday, has yet to arrive back in town.

“When (Robinson) comes in (on Friday) I will see how he feels. But I have a contingency in place if he is not available or if Amado (Guevara) is not available.”

Kick-off Saturday is set for 4 p.m. ET at BMO Field in Toronto.

NOTES: Toronto FC trained at the Oakville Soccer Club on Thursday, in front of a huge gathering of young fans and players … John Carver, who was briefly linked to a move back to Newcastle United, commented on the recent hiring of legend Alan Shearer to run the club: “I am surprised it didn’t happen a little bit earlier. There are eight games to go, he has brought in Iain Dowie — who is a good friend of mine — and for the sake of the football club I hope they can do a job and keep them in the Premiership.”

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