Toronto FC thought they weren't even going to see Conor Casey, but they ended up getting more than an eyeful.
Casey scored the winning goal early in the second half to lead the hometown Colorado Rapids to a 1-0 win over Toronto on Saturday night, a result that delivers a hammer blow to the Canadian club's dwindling playoff hopes.
Casey was scheduled to play for the United States in a World Cup qualifier against El Salvador in Utah on Saturday night, leading Toronto to believe it wouldn't even have to worry about Major League Soccer's leading scorer.
But U.S. national team coach Bob Bradley decided he wasn't going to use Casey, and the Colorado forward quickly boarded a plane and returned home, where he guided the Rapids to a victory in the opener of a crucial home-and-home series.
These teams will meet again in Toronto next Saturday (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 3:30 p.m. ET).
MLS PLAYOFF RACE
|7. New England||33||8|
|8. Salt Lake||33||6|
** Top eight teams make the playoffs
Toronto sits 11th overall in the MLS standings with 31 points and is three spots behind Real Salt Lake, which occupies the eighth and final playoff position.
The Reds are involved in a seven-way dogfight for the final four post-season berths, but with just six games left in the season, time is running out.
Even more worrying for Toronto is the fact that it has gone three consecutive games without scoring a goal.
Toronto was missing two key starters in midfielders Carl Robinson (ankle injury) and Amado Guevara (away on international duty with Honduras). The Reds were also reduced to nine men after midfielder Amadou Sanyang and defender Adrian Serioux were sent off by the referee in the final 15 minutes.
Goalkeeper Stefan Frei made a great save on Colorado's Mehdi Ballouchy early on, then rode his luck when Casey smacked his penalty shot attempt against the crossbar in the 25th minute.
Casey wouldn't be denied, though, and the veteran forward scored his league-leading 12th goal of the season in the 52nd minute with a powerful header.
That was all the offence the Rapids needed, as they easily contained Toronto's limp and lifeless attack the rest of the way.
Dichio back on the field
Veteran striker Danny Dichio travelled to Colorado and played the final 20 minutes for Toronto.
Dichio's status with the club has been a bit murky of late.
The club's all-time leading scorer with 14 goals, Dichio did not make the trip to Los Angeles two weeks ago when Toronto dropped a 2-0 decision to Chivas USA.
When questioned about Dichio's absence, coach Chris Cummins said that the striker is too banged up physically to travel to West coast games to be an asset to the club, and would only be asked to make such road trips in an emergency.
Dichio, who turns 35 in October, flew with the team to Seattle but didn't play in last Saturday's 0-0 draw with the Sounders, as Cummins didn't make use of all three of his substitutions.
Prior to Saturday, Dichio's last appearance in a regular-season game came in a 3-2 loss to the Columbus Crew on July 25 when he played three minutes as a late substitute.