Winning first game of season buoys Toronto FC

By RON FANFAIR

With both the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Toronto Raptors almost certain to miss the playoffs and the Toronto Blue Jays unlikely to contend in a strong Eastern division that comprises the New York Yankees, the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay, Toronto FC appears to be the city’s only sports franchise that could vie for a championship in the near future.

Fans have supported the franchise since its inception and the management has bolstered the line-up this season with proven winners.

Scarborough-born Canadian players, Dwayne DeRosario and Adrian Serioux, provided Toronto soccer fans with a glimpse of the steely character and creativity they bring to the side by playing major roles in Toronto FC’s 3-2 win over hosts Kansas City Wizards last Saturday night. Though it was the first game of the season, this was a major victory when taken into consideration that it was just the franchise’s third road win in three seasons.

“You can tell by the smile on my face I am absolutely delighted,” head coach John Carver said after the riveting contest that produced four second half goals after Toronto opened the scoring in the 33rd minute.

“Our away record last season wasn’t great and it was important we came into the first game of the season and got something from it. I am delighted with the three points, delighted with the performance…The lads are really high (after the win). I said to them there’s a long way to go. They set a standard, a real high standard. We conceded a lot of late goals last year. But we dug in tonight and showed some resolve in there.”

DeRosario, the Canadian Player of the Year three straight years, contributed to two of the goals and missed a penalty on his Toronto debut after being traded last December from the Houston Dynamos.

‘It’s a proud moment for me,” he said. “I knew I was going to play for this team. I didn’t know when and the time has come. A great group of guys, a great organization and, most importantly, I am really happy we got the result we came here to get.”

Toronto FC, which had eight shots on goal as opposed to their opponents four, will face the Columbus Crew on the road on Saturday before coming home for its first home match this season, which will be against the Seattle Sounders at BMO Field on Saturday, April 4.

■ Gregory “Jackie Chan” Richardson became the first Guyanese to appear in a Major League Soccer game last Saturday. The striker, who appeared for Toronto FC in three exhibition games in the pre-season before being traded to the Colorado Rapids, came on as a substitute in the 79th minute. His team lost 2-1 to Chivas USA in Carson, California.

■ Vancouver was awarded an MLS franchise last week, joining Toronto FC as the second Canadian team in the North American championship. The team will begin play in 2011 at the newly-renovated BC Place Stadium in the city’s downtown entertainment district.

“British Columbians are excited about hosting a Major League Soccer team,” said Premier Gordon Campbell. “The Vancouver Whitecaps have been part of our province’s history for more than three decades. As an MLS team, the Whitecaps organization will carry on that incredible tradition as well as generate economic benefits of up to $25 million each season.”

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