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Poor defending costs TFC in loss to Dynamo

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In a game filled with trialists, some old problems haunted Toronto FC.

Despite twice taking the lead, TFC lost 3-2 to the Houston Dynamo Thursday in their opening match of the preseason Walt Disney World Pro Soccer Classic in Orlando, Fla.

Even with a bunch of new faces in the lineup, including brand-new trialists Ivo de Heus, Mikael Yourassowsky and Jamal Gay, TFC was beaten thanks to some huge deficiencies down the flanks.

Last season, the book on TFC was that you could beat them down the flanks, because of the slow-footed troops the team had installed in the left- and right-back positions, the likes of the long-gone Nick Garcia, Raivis Hscanovics and Maxsim Usanov. On Thursday, when the Dynamo introduced Danny Cruz on the right wing in the second half ,with the score tied 2-2, the Reds didn’t have an answer for his speed. He was able to create tons of space down the wing, and wasn’t challenged when he delivered a perfect cross in the 69th minute for Cam Weaver to nod home for the winner.

Will Bruin should have made it 4-2 off another Cruz cross, but his wide-open header was denied thanks to a sprawling effort from TFC keeper Stefan Frei.

Veterans Dan Gargan, brought in as a second-half sub, and Adrian Cann, who played the full game, were guilty culprits on the Weaver goal and the Bruin chance.

Toronto opened the scoring just seven minutes into the game. Former Colorado Rapids Jacob Peterson and Nick LaBrocca combined to create the goal; with LaBrocca providing the pass and Peterson the finish.

But Houston tied the game just minutes later. Jamaican international Lovel Palmer’s cross was controlled and fired into the goal by Geoff Cameron. The defender-turned-attacker missed most of last season due to a serious knee injury, which crippled the Dynamo’s campaign.

TFC took the lead again, on a penalty from Dwayne De Rosario; he converted after Gay was brought down by Canadian defender Andrew Hainault.

But, right before halftime, Houston’s Brad Davis squared things with an unstoppable free kick.

De Rosario left the game at the one-hour mark; he was clutching his side, and coach Aron Winter decided to err on the side of caution and yank his star player. Houston’s top striker, Brian Ching (who used to make a living converting crosses from De Rosario in their Dynamo glory days), left the game in the first half with what looked to be a minor injury.

The first half was wide open; a stark contrast from the Toronto FC of Preki — which preferred to remain compact and simply react to the other team, trying to disrupt the flow as much as it possibly could. TFC yielded more space, but in doing so was also creating space to move the ball in and out. The Reds took more risks, realizing in doing so that there would be greater rewards. And, considering that this game meant nothing in the standings, the fans were likely watching online to check TFC’s style rather than its substance.

TFC faces Orlando City on Saturday.

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