Reds Primed for Table Toppers
Friday, May 16, 2008 | 06:51 PM ET
John Carver wants Toronto FC to make a statement this weekend. And the TFC Coach believes his players are ready to make a declaration that will be heard throughout Major League Soccer.
If he was sending an email, it would be typically short and to the point. It might read: “Attention All MLS Teams – Toronto FC is not a soft touch anymore.”
The Reds return to action Saturday against the Columbus Crew, hardly a hotbed of soccer, yet a team that has set the League alight so far this season (4:00 pm ET, CBC Sports; cbcsports.ca). Columbus arrives on the back of a five game winning streak and leads the overall MLS standings by two points from Eastern Conference rivals Chicago.
Toronto has enjoyed a 16-day break since a 1-1 draw with New York at the start of the month, but now embarks on a hectic schedule of five games in the space of just fifteen days. Carver reckons the time off has given him and his players the chance to re-charge their batteries, and believes a win over Columbus would send a telling message to the rest of the League.
His optimism is well founded; while the Crew are the current pacesetters, Carver’s team goes into the match unbeaten in four games – featuring three wins. The additions of Guevara, Robert and Ricketts, none of whom had been signed when TFC lost at Columbus on the opening day of the 2008 campaign, have brought much needed offensive quality to the table and their coach will want to see them continue against Columbus where they off against the Red Bulls.
In addition there’s a bit of a score to settle – literally. Toronto, in its short existence, has never beaten Columbus in four previous attempts. Last year, Jim Brennan’s memorable free kick helped TFC to a 2-2 draw in Ohio, only for the Crew to take maximum points from the subsequent three meetings.
Indeed the whole League has been somewhat turned on its head this season. This is a game between two teams who finished last and next to last in the East in 2007 and comfortably missed the post-season. This time round Columbus has won 6 of its opening 7 games, while TFC boast a points total that would put them 2nd in the West, but is only currently good enough for 5th in the stronger East.
The Reds’ rapid improvement has been well documented but few predicted the strong start by Columbus. One of the reasons is the form of young Robbie Rogers, whom I first saw representing the USA at last year’s U20 World Cup. The speedy winger, who celebrated his 21st birthday this week, has helped himself to 5 goals in 7 starts, including a couple in last week’s come from behind win over San Jose. Rogers is predominantly left sided but Carver doesn’t have any special plans to keep him quiet. The TFC boss trusts the pace and ability of Marvell Wynne will be more than a match for his dangerous opponent.
At the other end, Columbus coach Sigi Schmid will, no doubt, caution his players not to give away free kicks around the top of the penalty area. Guevara and Robert will be waiting to take full advantage should they fail to heed the warning.
It promises to be a fast paced, exciting game with plenty of goal opportunities – unless Carl Robinson has anything to do with it. The TFC midfielder will be more than content with a cagey, scrappy match on one condition: “As long as we win 1-0”.
He’s got a point – can his team collect all three?
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About the Author
Nigel Reed lends his extensive experience, passion and knowledge of the game of soccer to his role as play-by-play announcer for CBC’s Major League Soccer broadcasts.
Reed has more than 20 years experience covering soccer, most notably a five-year stint from 1999 to 2004 where he was a host and producer for the English Premier League for BBC. He also covered English Premier League giants Liverpool and Everton for BBC Radio and provided analysis for both BBC TV and the BBC website.
More recently, Reed served as play-by-play announcer for CBC’s coverage of the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup. He also hosts The Soccer Show for the Toronto sports radio station the Fan 590.
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