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Toronto FC’s 0-0 draw in Colorado feels like a win

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Dicoy Williams... outstanding game at CB for TFC
Toronto FC didn’t win. It wasn’t a game that would remind anyone of Hungary of the early ‘50s or Brazil of 1970.

But a 0-0 draw in the Colorado altitude, with three midfield regulars out of the lineup? Well, TFC coach Aron Winter will take it.

“I am glad that we got the tie because the guys played very well, especially since there were some players that I could not start with due to some of the regular 11 being a little injured,” said Winter after the game. “We tried to at least get a good team on the pitch and to also play good soccer and I am satisfied with the way that we played.”

The MLS Cup champs didn’t quite resemble the team that hoisted the trophy at BMO Field last November; the thunder-and-lightning attack of Conor Casey and Omar Cummings wasn’t present. Casey who, when healthy, is simply the best physical centre forward in MLS, made his first start since April and could only go 60 mostly harmless minutes. The injured Cummings was replaced by the quick but heavy-footed Quincy Amarikwa, who was beaten repeatedly by TFC central defender Dicoy Williams in a series of one-on-one battles. Williams understood that the best way to defend Casey was to make sure the big man never got the ball; so he simply blanketed Amarikwa in what was his finest game in a TFC shirt.

But TFC, faced with the severe altitude of the Mile High City, which saps the enery of visiting teams, endured the 90 minutes, even with Julian de Guzman (suspension) and the injured Jacob Peterson and Tony Tchani unavailable for selection.

Really, had Mikael Yourassowsky’s second half chance not struck the bar; had the shot been just a couple of inches lower, TFC would have equalled what was the best road result the team has had in its MLS existence. On Aug. 9, 2008, with many regulars out to to injuries and international call-ups, TFC came into the altitude, and 40 C heat, and beat the Rapids 1-0 on a Chad Barrett goal. The likes of Tyler Rosenlund and Gabe Gala came in to the team and did yeoman’s work on that day.

There were a lot of parallels between that great 2008 result and Sunday’s match.

Toronto FC was able to slow down the pace at times, controlling the ball. That’s what teams have to do in the altitude. And, even with the management of the game, every visiting team (with the exception of Real Salt Lake, which also plays at altitude) knows that it must survive the final 10 minutes of the match, just hanging on as the fresher Colorado legs come at the defenders in waves. TFC survived a couple of half-chances.

Really, the best two attempts of the game came off the feet of TFC players. In the 49th minute Richard Eckersley dashed up from the fullback position to intercept a lazy pass in the Colorado midfield. He dashed up the right channel with the ball at his feet, lashing a drive that Colorado keeper Matt Pickens did well to save.

In the 61st, TFC had the best chance of the game to come up with the decider. After TFC keeper Stefan Frei collected a scrambled Rapids’ corner kick, he turned it quickly off to Yourassowsky, who then slotted it up to Javier Martina. The Dutch forward turned and laid the ball off for a running Yourassowsky, who never broke stride after making the initial pass. Yourassowsky got behind the defence and smacked a shot over Pickens, but off the top of the bar.

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