TORONTO -- Opportunity is going to be the name of the game for Toronto FC in the coming weeks and this fact hasn’t been lost on its players. Held to draws in its last four matches thanks to missed chances, Fuad Ibrahim made the most of his on Saturday. Handed a rare start, Ibrahim was able to impress and declared his intent to fight for a regular place in the TFC attack, scoring the only goal in a 1-0 victory over the visiting Colorado Rapids.
Having recently signed both former Spanish international forward Mista, who is unavailable until the re-opening of the transfer window on the 15th of the month, and Brazilian striker Maicon Santos, who looked lively in his debut for the Reds today, playing time is now at a premium and Ibrahim is making his case for further inclusion. Toronto FC manager Preki likes what he sees in his young striker, yet wants Ibrahim to really force the issue.
“He’s going. I hope he understands what it takes to get to the next level. He has to be committed everyday in training. He has to be harder everyday in training. If he continues to make progress, he’ll get more minutes, but that’s up to Fuad, not me.”
Ibrahim’s marker was a real goal-scorer’s goal, one in which he capitalized on a Rapids defensive lapse to beat Matt Pickens, but the soft-spoken Minnesota native realizes that he’s going to need to make the best of every chance he gets in order to continue to ensure a place.
“It was a good opportunity. Every time you go out there, you keep working and trying to prove yourself and I went out there and did that today,” said Ibrahim.
“I’m happy about the goal, but I’m happier about the three points we got as a team.”
Preki’s message of continual improvement through hard work seems to be getting through to the 18-year-old and is ready to carry on battling for time.
“I just have to keep working hard everyday, training, and keep pushing, and somehow get the opportunity for playing time and get [the coaching staff’s] attention and my chance will come.”
The man who set up Ibrahim’s goal, Chad Barrett, has been impressed with his young teammate’s commitment in recent weeks and was very pleased to see him get on the scoresheet.
“He fought really hard. He’s not a big guy, but he made himself very big at that moment and the ball fell in front of him and he made a great finish to tuck that away”, explained the forward.
“Credit to him. First goal of the year and it’s a big one. In the last two games, as a sub and starter, he’s got a goal and assist. He works hard at practice and he got an opportunity and he seized it”.
Barrett, a regular in Preki’s XI, knows that competition for a spot up front will be fierce, but he’s excited about Director of Football Mo Johnston’s additions to the squad.
“We got some nice attacking options. Mista is a very proven goal-scorer. He’s scored a lot of goals, but he’s only going to bring experience to our offense”, said Barrett.
“I’m not too familiar with Maicon, but from what I saw today, I was impressed. Another hold-up guy, a little bit smaller than Danny [Dichio] and a little bit bigger than me. He’s got a great left foot. I was watching him today in practice and in warm-up and he’s got a crazy Ronaldo-looking dip on his shot and I’m excited to see what he can do and bring to the table.”
While Preki is fairly certain that Maicon doesn’t even know any of his teammates’ names, the former Chivas man is happy to be in Toronto, but knows he needs time to settle in with his new club.
“The guys are good. Everybody wants to win and it was a good first game”, said Maicon. “I feel good, but I need to play more with these guys. I just need to get ready and keep working for every game”.
With the Champions League on the horizon and a slate of matches, including a friendly with Bolton, upcoming, the next few weeks will be intense ones. But talk is cheap for the Reds. Their intent to work hard and take advantage of opportunities won’t mean anything unless they convert their collective will into tangible gains and remain in striking distance of the top of the Eastern Conference.
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