In a match that saw five bookings, including a straight red to Union captain Danny Califf, Toronto FC opened up its home portion of the schedule with a 2-1 victory over 10-man Philadelphia. A brace from captain Dwayne De Rosario, including a late penalty conversion, allowed TFC to pick up its first victory of the season in front of a capacity crowd, and move out of the Eastern Conference basement.
A quiet start to the first game played on grass at BMO Field belied the frenetic action that was to occur before the whistle was blown at the half. The first 15 minutes saw a feeling-out process for two clubs unfamiliar with one another, with much of the play contained in the midfield, but it didn't take long for physicality to come into play and hard-hitting football was the order of the day for the remainder of the opening 45.
The first of four bookings in the half took place in the 15th minute when Latvian defender Raivis Hščanovičs came in hard with both feet on Union defender Cristian Arrieta. It seemed that Hscanovics might have gotten lucky by only seeing yellow, as replays showed that he got mostly shin of the former Lecce man and very little of the ball.
The Union were able to come close at the half-hour, when Arrieta sent in an inviting cross into the TFC box, but last weekend’s hat-trick hero, Sebastien Le Toux, was unable to meet the delivery.
Shortly thereafter, the complexion of the game changed dramatically when Union captain Danny Califf misfired a back pass to ‘keeper Chris Seitz. With an onrushing Julian De Guzman about to intercept the pass for a clear chance on net, Califf impeded the Canadian international with a thoughtless elbow to the chin. Referee Baldomero Toledo wasted little time in sending Califf for an early shower.
The home side struck on the ensuing free kick from just outside the box in the 35th minute. With both Nick Labrocca and Martin Saric taking quick touches, it was ultimately captain Dwayne De Rosario who sent in a low drive through the wall. While the ball did take a slight deflection on the way in, Seitz misplayed the shot badly, as De Rosario notched his second marker in as many matches.
Down a man and with momentum seemingly against them, the visitors fought back admirably and were rewarded just before time. After a nice 1-2 near the center of the field, Roger Torres, on loan from Columbian side América de Cali, smartly found a streaking Jordan Harvey, who had slipped behind Usmanov on the right. In alone on Stefan Frei, the defender made no mistake with a low drive past the ‘keeper.
Smelling blood with the numerical advantage, Preki made a double switch at the half to force the issue, bringing in strikers Chad Barrett and O’Brian White in place of Saric and Usmanov, with Gargan dropping back to defense. While it was Toronto which was geared for attack, the 10-men Union brought the play in the early going. The industrious Torres, in his final moments before coming out in favor of defender Shavar Thomas, played provider once again, this time for Le Toux. The ex-Sounder’s header was directly at Frei.
With the numbers game effectively neutralizing Philadelphia's creativity in the midfield, TFC began to press, as de Guzman gave it a go, sending in a drive from outside the box that forced a nice save out of Seitz. Later, Barrett should have done better in the 54th minute, when de Guzman sent a beautiful cross into the box. Barrett, unmarked, connected on a free header, but sent the ball over the bar.
The Union, growing in resolve, further frustrated their hosts, as TFC was unable to break the deadlock. A misplayed Alejandro Moreno clearance in the 70th minute saw an impressive bicycle kick attempt by De Rosario go wide. Off a corner, Dan Gargan came inches wide with a header moments later.
The hosts were not to be denied, though, as Gargan’s through ball connected with a streaking White, who got by the marking of Harvey. Seitz, looking to prevent a shot, was adjudged to have brought the former UCONN star down, and White was awarded a penalty in the 80th minute. From the spot, captain De Rosario blasted the penalty by a diving Seitz and restored the Reds’ lead for his third strike of the season.
DeRo should have capped his evening with a hat trick, but the Canadian international hit the crossbar after being played in alone on a 2-on-1 break with Barrett. This did little to dampen the evening, though, as the Reds celebrated their first points of the season in a victorious home opener.
The Reds have little time to savor their victory, as they head to Denver for a Sunday afternoon encounter with the Rapids, while the Union will have longer to reflect on the defeat, idle until next Saturday, when they look for their first ever road win at the brand new Red Bull Arena.
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