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The Positive Side Of Disappointment
April 12, 2009, 10:37 AM
Filed under: FC Dallas, Toronto FC

Saturday’s match represented the positive side of disappointment for Toronto FC, if such a thing exists. Whereas last weekend’s 2-0 loss to Seattle was an all-around letdown for the team, Saturday’s 1-1 draw against FC Dallas represented at least a step in the right direction, albeit with its own unique brand of unpleasantness.

In this case, it was an 87th-minute goal from FCD captain Pablo Ricchetti that tied the game and erased the lead that the Reds had held for most of the game. Ricchetti’s goal deflated the supporters at BMO Field, all of whom were hoping to see TFC hang on for its first home victory of the season.

The last-minute concession brought back some uncomfortable memories from 2008, when TFC cost themselves a number of points by allowing a league-worst 13 goals in the final 15 minutes of games. Toronto head coach John Carver didn’t have an answer for why his team suddenly relented in the face of the Dallas attack.

“Maybe it’s a little bit of anxiety crept in, certainly in the last 10-15 minutes,” Carver said. “They stayed with it, they made a few changes, they changed tactically as well, and I could see a little bit of anxiety creeping in amongst our guys. As a coach I don’t think there’s a great deal you can do about that since it’s down to individuals.”

Defender Adrian Serioux wasn’t with the Reds last season, but the veteran is hopeful that this late-game goal was just an aberration and not the beginning of another year-long trend.

“I hope it’s not going to be one of those years when it comes down to the last two minutes or so and teams are able to capitalize on us,” Serioux said. “That’s one of the things we’ve got to focus on and make sure we can put an end to.”

In spite of being outshot 19-10 overall and 8-3 in shots on goal, Toronto held firm with their one-goal lead thanks to the strong play of first-year goalkeeper Stefan Frei. Returning to the lineup after leaving the March 28 game in Columbus with a back injury, Frei was outstanding in making six saves, several of which were difficult. His first save was arguably his most impressive — a leaping stop in the 13th minute that kept a shot from FCD’s Andre Rocha from curving into the top left corner of the net.

In spite of his impressive outing, Frei still took the burden for the draw on himself and didn’t even agree with the notion that his performance had earned him the full-time starting job ahead of Greg Sutton and Brian Edwards.

“I was trying to keep the team in it and give us a 1-0 win and I came up short by three minutes,” Frei said. “It’s disappointing, very disappointing. … I look at it as week-by-week, you have to earn your spot. So I’ll be coming out Monday to earn my spot for next Sunday again.”

Carver praised his rookie ‘keeper’s first outing in front of the BMO Field fans.

“I’ve been talking about Stefan since we picked him in the draft,” Carver said. “The fans have seen what we’ve got now and they can see why I was quite excited when we picked him up. He had a super game. I feel for him because goalkeepers pride themselves on clean sheets and if anybody deserved a clean sheet, it was Stefan today.”

Dwayne De Rosario put the Reds up in the 17th minute when he converted a long throw-in from Serioux that sailed all the way from the corner into the penalty area. De Rosario managed to head in Serioux’s toss to give TFC the lead that nearly stood over the rest of the match.

It was a rare attacking collaboration between the two Toronto natives, who Serioux jokingly referred to as “the Scarborough Connection.” The defender said that his throw-ins can sometimes be more effective than a corner in dealing with the swirling winds at BMO Field, and they provide another added wrinkle for opponents to worry about.

“If [hitting the first man] is not an option for me, I usually just try to whip it into the box and cause a scatter and hopefully someone gets on the end of it like DeRo did,” Serioux said. “My throw-ins can go pretty far. It’s almost like a corner kick. So if I can use that as a threat against other teams, then that’s what I’m going to do.”

TFC will get a quick opportunity to avenge the draw against FCD as the teams will face each other again on Sunday, this time in Frisco, Texas at Pizza Hut Park. The concept of a home-and-home series is somewhat unusual in regular-season MLS play, but Frei thinks the short turnaround time between games will help his team’s preparation.

“We know what their habits are, their strengths are,” Frei said. “We looked at footage before but now we have first-hand experience against them.”

Ironically, TFC’s last trip to Frisco ended with another late-game disappointment. Last Oct. 11, Marvell Wynne scored an 88th-minute goal to give the Reds a 2-1 lead, but the lead was short-lived as Kenny Cooper equalized in the 90th minute to end the game in a 2-2 draw.

Toronto is hoping to get maximum points and break this string of deadlocks against FCD, but Carver is just hoping that his team can deliver another showing that fully erases the spectre of the Seattle match.

“It’s really disappointing to concede a goal with two or three minutes to go since I thought there was a vast improvement after last week’s performance,” Carver said. “It’s disappointing coming away with a point, but a point is better than none at all. At one stage we could’ve lost all three, so I’ll take the point, it might be valuable down the line.”

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