TORONTO – The mood in the TFC locker room after their 4-1 victory over the Chicago Fire was light and airy, much like the conditions on the pitch that directly led to Nick Labrocca’s improbable opening goal. Half a cross and half a shot, Labrocca’s 1st-half marker got caught in an updraft and fooled everybody from well out.
“Well, every time you put a ball in, you want to put it in a dangerous spot. I was aiming for that back post and the wind kinda helped it out and put it in the goal,” explained the diminutive New Jersey native.
“I was watching it and all of a sudden it was going right where I wanted it to go, right towards that back post”.
As of this writing, there’s no word if TFC Director of Soccer, Mo Johnston is attempting to get the wind under contract and into a TFC shirt, but the weather certainly made an impression on the players.
“It was tough. I don’t think we’ve played with anything like that this year, but I think we adjusted very well, especially in the second half” said Labrocca.
Asked about the unique fist-pumping celebration after his first goal of the season, Labrocca, called TFC’s version of “The Situation” by teammate Nick Garcia, had to laugh.
“It was Jersey Shore. We started out hitting the ground and, you know, just work your way up [with the fist pumps]”.
The Reds scored three more times after Labrocca’s goal, registering more than tw0 for the first time this season, but the key to TFC’s win might have been the way they responded to Logan Pause’s goal to make it 2-1. So many times in the past, the Reds have responded to conceding a goal by falling back and allowing the opposition to continue to build momentum, but not this time, as Chad Barrett was able to restore the two goal cushion not long after. This fact wasn’t lost on captain Dwayne De Rosario.
“We couldn’t sit back at 2-1. It was a battle. Thankfully, we had the mentality to take it to them. It worked out because, when we started to pressure them, I think that’s where we got our most success. Because they scored, I think if we were to sit back, it wouldn’t have done us any justice,” explained the club’s leading scorer.
“The key point for me is that, when they scored, we still kept our heads down, kept on task, and still kept pressuring them”.
Not only did three different Reds players (Labrocca, Barrett, and O’Brian White) get on the scoresheet, but this marked the first match in which TFC scored, that De Rosario didn’t. Presciently, the captain proclaimed in the last week that the goals for his teammates would start coming and De Rosario was pleased to be proven correct.
“When you score, you want the ball. You feel a confidence. You feel good and hopefully, we’ll take that on the road with us. We’re going to need that same mentality on the road right now and it’s a trickle-down thing. It trickles down to the rest of the team and I’m very happy that, not only Chad [Barrett] scored, but Nick [Labrocca] scored and OB [O’Brian White] got on the board again, because we need every guy to contribute to make this a successful year”.
For Barrett, there was a bit of a redemptive element to the match in being able to score against his former club, but the striker was quick to praise his teammates for a more disciplined effort overall, after being vocal over the past couple of weeks for the need for said restraint, with the number of hard fouls the team was picking up.
“It’s early in the season and we have a bunch of new players trying to make an impression and earn starting spots and [Toronto manager] Preki likes to play a hard style of soccer, so it’s understandable that people would go in hard, but the more you play as a team, the more you’re going to know where the other players are and get a feel of certain things at certain times,” explained Barrett.
“Maybe holding up is just a better option. I thought everybody, from the defence to the midfield, dropped deep only a couple of times, maybe for about only 10 minutes in the whole match, which we used to do a lot last year, and, other than that, we kept high and pressed them in their half. All they ever got out of us was long shots. My hat goes off to the defence and midfield. I thought they all played really well”.
Barrett has had his critics over the past couple of seasons who have questioned his finishing ability, but he was able to bury 2 chances confidently, both with his off-foot. The striker said that it wasn’t a conscious effort to switch things up.
“No, that’s just how they both came. I’ve always had a good amount of confidence in my left foot. I’m still right-footed, but it’s still good to know that my left works”.
While TFC’s upcoming fixture schedule is a congested one, eyes are beginning to turn towards Canada’s upcoming friendly with Argentina on May 24th. There has been pressure over the past few years for the Canadian Soccer Association to line up high caliber opposition and this will be an opportunity for the national team to impress. Real Salt Lake manager Jason Kreis has already indicated that striker Will Johnson will be made available, but word has not come down yet from Toronto, who has 4 players eligible to participate in De Rosario, Julian de Guzman, and defenders Nana Attakora and Adrian Cann.
“I’m not too sure yet. I know [the CSA] has spoken to the club and we have a few games coming up, but I don’t know if I’ll be part of that game,” said Attakora.
“I might be part of the Venezuela match. I spoke with Steve [Hart, Canada manager] and I’m waiting to find out. I should know within the next week, week and a half”.
Upon hearing this, Barrett playfully threatened Attakora, the man with the locker next to his, telling him, “You better be there!”
With 3 matches in the next two weeks (away to Vancouver and LA and then home to the Revs), TFC is enjoying the levity now when they can.
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