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TFC gets quick shot at rematch
April 13, 2009, 7:15 AM
Filed under: Toronto FC

As the first thing to catch the players’ eyes on their return to the dressing room it was a cruel reminder. There, illuminated on the far wall, was a computer projection of how the team is supposed to defend corners on a virtual pitch.

Minutes before, out on the real thing, Toronto FC had failed to deal with the visitors’ late set piece, allowing FC Dallas captain Pablo Ricchetti to nonchalantly back-heel the ball past a stunned Stefan Frei and into the net.

“It’s really disappointing to concede a goal with two or three minutes to go because I thought there was a vast improvement on last week’s performance,” said Toronto coach John Carver following the 1-1 draw, blaming the breakdown three minutes from time on “a little bit of anxiety.”

While there was no doubt the performance was better, truth be told, those in red had only themselves to blame for letting two points slip through their fingers.

Dwayne De Rosario’s 17th-minute opener – his first goal for his hometown team – had provided the perfect platform for TFC to go on and banish memories of last week’s lacklustre effort against Seattle, but instead they spurned every opportunity to do so.

Striker Chad Barrett was once again the chief culprit, conspiring to miss a handful of golden opportunities to double the lead, but he was not alone. Even man-of-the-match Sam Cronin, who enjoyed an otherwise solid game, passed up a gilt-edged chance in the second half when a poor first touch ruined what had been an enterprising run to get behind the Dallas defence.

Still, while the TFC dressing room was not exactly a bed of roses after Saturday’s game – “Everyone’s deflated in here because it feels like we lost the game,” was how midfielder Carl Robinson put it – the good news is the players do not have to wait long for another crack at Kenny Cooper and Co.

In the first of two home-and-home series this season – the other is against Colorado in September – Toronto FC travel to Dallas this Sunday for the rematch, and will have to be encouraged by the way they nullified the always-dangerous Cooper.

“I thought the guys handled him quite well,” said Carver afterward of the former Manchester United player, who had four goals in two outings against Toronto last year. His defenders also prevented Dallas from getting any real penetration, as Carver mentioned, “We did frustrate them at times, and that’s why they had to take shots from distance.”

Heading into Pizza Hut Park on Sunday, the TFC coach will also be encouraged by the play of his rookie goalkeeper, although he was upset that Frei wasn’t rewarded for his efforts. “I feel for him a little bit because goalkeepers pride themselves on clean sheets and if anyone deserved a clean sheet today, it’s Stefan,” he said.

De Rosario’s outing also proved to be a boon for both player and coach, and should pay dividends in the coming weeks.

“The first goal is the toughest one sometimes and I’m happy to get that out of the way,” the Scarborough native said of getting off the mark for his new team, while he seemed to thrive in playing further up the park than he had in the previous two games.

Carver certainly agreed. “I think we get more out of him playing in that position,” the Englishman said.

Now if he can only find productive positions for the rest of his team.

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