TFC braces for big week - Globe and Mail

Larry Millson

MLS team heads on road to face Whitecaps, Fire

TORONTO - With one exhibition match out of the way, things become a little less friendly for Toronto FC this week.

After a side of mostly non-regular players and youngsters acquitted themselves well against Pachuca of Mexico - playing to a 1-1 tie in regular time and losing 4-3 on penalty kicks at BMO Field on Saturday - Toronto will play a couple of crucial away games in two different competitions.

To start, there is an important Canadian championship rematch on Wednesday with the Vancouver Whitecaps, who defeated Toronto 1-0 last Tuesday. Each team in the three-team tournament has won a game, but Vancouver has lost twice to the Montreal Impact, who in turn lost to Toronto.

After that, Toronto will travel to Chicago to play the Fire in Major League Soccer action on Saturday. Toronto and Chicago are tied for fourth place in the Eastern Conference with 21 points in 14 games.

Off the field, the Fire and TFC are still negotiating over Brian McBride, who wants to play in his hometown of Chicago now that he has ended his career in England. Toronto holds his MLS rights.

In last week's game against Vancouver, Toronto played a poor first half and gave up a goal on a questionable penalty call against Jim Brennan.

A few changes in the second half added more life, but Toronto was thwarted by some excellent saves from goalkeeper Jay Nolly.

Jeff Cunningham also was deprived of what would have been the tying goal by an offside call that Toronto players felt was wrong. Video replays showed there was some justification to their claim.

It was Toronto's first home loss of the season.

"We've got to go out in the right frame of mind," said Brennan, who will miss the Vancouver game because of a suspension. "The guys have been working hard. We'll be looking to get a result in Vancouver. That's one game that we have to win. We know that. It's going to be another one that's full of passion."

With Wednesday's match in mind, Toronto sat out most of its regulars against Pachuca. In terms of veterans, Brennan played the entire game, as did Laurent Robert and Rohan Ricketts. Greg Sutton played the first half in goal and rookie Brian Edwards played the second.

Young players, who usually play with the reserves, were featured prominently. Abdus Ibrahim, 16, played 60 minutes before Cunningham took over in Toronto's only other substitution of the game. Pachuca made seven substitutions.

Defenders Julius James and Nana Attakora-Gyan and young midfielders Tyler Hemming and Tyler Rosenlund all played the full game against Pachuca, a team that employs a short-passing, possession style of game.

Giving those players experience against a good club could produce positive results soon.

"We've got a busy month coming up," said assistant coach Chris Cummins, who coaches the reserve team. "Wednesday's an important game for us - a very important game. We'll be going in to get a result. If there's lads that come in and we think they might give us something different, then we won't be afraid to put them in."

Before an announced crowd of 18,079, Christian Correa scored for Pachuca in the 60th minute at the end of a nifty give-and-go with Christian Gimenez.

Nine minutes later, James, who has an impressive vertical jump, nodded home a corner kick from Robert.

Cunningham missed an excellent chance to score on a pass from Hemming in the 83rd minute.

At the end of regulation time, the game went to penalty kicks, with Edwin Borboa making the deciding kick.

In another development, Toronto has released forward Andrea Lombardo.