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Dutch double gives TFC win over MLS Cup champs

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Danny Koevermans has been a force since joining Toronto FC, and now the BMO Field faithful had a chance to see the Dutch striker’s scoring touch for themselves.

Koevermans collected his first two home pitch goals to lead the Reds to a 2-1 win Saturday over the Colorado Rapids.  Koevermans has now scored six goals in seven league games since signing with TFC as a Designated Player on June 29.

“I’m trying to get goals every game,” Koevermans said.  “It’s nice now and…I hope I can continue for the rest of the season and next season.”

Since Koevermans and fellow Designated Player Torsten Frings joined the lineup on July 20, the Reds are 3-3-3 in league play.  Not a world-beating record by any stretch, but a marked improvement over Toronto’s 3-9-9 mark in the first four months of the season, particularly since those three wins were over teams (Colorado, Columbus, Real Salt Lake) currently in line to reach the MLS Cup playoffs.

The Rapids, in fact, won last year’s MLS Cup Final at BMO Field last November, defeating FC Dallas for the first league title in franchise history.  Besides that result, however, Colorado hasn’t fared well in Toronto — the Rapids are now 0-5 all-time against the Reds at BMO Field.

Both sides entered Saturday’s game coming off lopsided defeats in CONCACAF Champions League play last Tuesday.  Toronto FC dropped to third place in Group C after suffering an ugly 4-0 defeat to Pumas UNAM in Mexico City on Tuesday, while Colorado dropped a 4-1 result at home to Santos Laguna in Group B action.

Perhaps owing to the shortened week and the increased travel, both teams played a thoroughly listless first half.  There were just five shots total in the opening 45 minutes (three for Colorado, two for Toronto) and only two were noteworthy chances — Ryan Johnson’s wide miss on a downfield pass from Frings, and a sudden left-footed shot from Omar Cummings that required a diving stop from TFC goalkeeper Milos Kocic to knock the ball away.

In the second half, however, the Reds’ attack came to life.  In the 52nd minute, Eric Avila sent a long cross downfield that found Ashtone Morgan on the left side.  Morgan, the TFC Academy product, carried the ball for a moment and then sent a perfect ball along the ground right to Koevermans’ feet.  The forward made no mistake with the conversion to put Toronto ahead.

Just eight minutes later, Koevermans was the recipient of another tremendous pass.  This time it was fellow striker Nick Soolsma who had room for a cross from the right side that Koevermans headed into the left side of the net.

Koevermans is now tied with the departed Maicon Santos for the team lead in goals.  Six scores in seven games is impressive enough, but his production is even more eye-opening when you consider that Koevermans has been hampered by ankle and hamstring injuries in recent weeks.

“Every game I’m still tired, today also,” Koevermans said.  “It’s such a tough week, we have to travel so much it takes a lot out of your body.  I feel it and I’m tired, but a lot of guys are struggling….When you win, you don’t feel it so today I’m not feeling it anymore.”

TFC head coach Aron Winter substituted Koevermans out of the game after 74 minutes, no doubt with an eye towards keeping his forward fresh for the team’s Champions League-congested schedule.

“At this point Danny’s condition is almost 100 percent fit,” Winter said.  “Danny is a guy, a good striker, who makes lot of chances to score.  In the games he has played and the amount of goals he’s made, it’s good.  It promises a lot more in the future.”

While Koevermans’ brace drew the headlines from the game, Morgan and Richard Eckersley also deserve mentions.  Morgan contributed on both offence and on defence, making two goal mouth clearances.  It was a solid rebound effort from the poor form that he (and, to be fair, the entire back line) showed against Pumas.

“Mexico lit a fire under me,” Morgan said.  “A 4-0 loss anywhere, you have to play for your pride and I felt [Pumas] took that away from us.  Today we came out ready to go again, and it was good.

“[The coaches] give me the freedom to go up and down the park to help the team offensively and to get back and help the team there too.  It was exciting today.”

Morgan’s block in the 69th minute wasn’t enough to keep Colorado off the board, however, as while Morgan got in front of Cummings’ initial shot, Sanna Nyassi was there to score and cut Toronto’s lead to 2-1.  The Rapids kept pressing and collected 10 shots in the second half, but couldn’t quite get the equalizer.

Their closest chance came in the 90th minute.  Just when you thought Toronto FC was going to suffer more late-game heartbreak, Drew Moor’s shot from close range was blocked off the line by Eckersley.  The veteran delivered a mild fist pump to celebrate the fact that, for once, TFC avoided the stoppage-time boogeyman.

“I was in the right place at the right time, I think,” Eckersley said.  “It was massive for the team.  Like I said this is a team game — they’ve got my back, I’ve got the keeper’s back.  In previous games earlier in the season we would’ve sat back and just defended and today we went forward more to attack them.”

Eckersley missed the game in Mexico City due to a suspension for caution accumulation, one of several reasons why Winter felt that match was an aberration for the new-look Reds.

“In Mexico you’re seeing three players [out of] the lineup and then today we were missing only [Joao] Plata,” Winter said.  “And also, of course, the travel and height difference was not good for us, especially in the back when you’re missing a defender like Richard.  It’s good that he’s back.”

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