Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By: KURTIS LARSON
Toronto FC and FC Dallas traded goals midway through the second half at BMO Field in Toronto to share the points and keep their respective MLS streaks alive.
It looked as though TFC's newest acquisition Maicon Santos had all but locked up three points for the Reds after opening the scoring in the 61st minute, but Dallas' Milton Rodriguez would quiet the 19,743 on hand following a powerful header off a corner 10 minutes from time.
The draw saw both teams keep impressive MLS runs alive as Toronto extended a home unbeaten streak to nine games while Dallas moved their undefeated streak away from Frisco to seven games.
"Once again we found a way to give away a soft goal," head coach Preki said following the game. "It's worrisome that we are lacking concentration in the box."
The soggy and humid conditions made for a stale first half that quickly picked up following the break. In the 61st minute TFC's Julian de Guzman carried the ball across the midfield stripe before slotting a perfectly weighted through ball to Santos who was streaking in from the left side. The Brazilian collected the pass, taking two touches, before unleashing a near-post grass cutter that beat Dallas' Kevin Hartman to his right.
"My first goal was great but we didn't get a win," Santos told reporters in the dressing room. "Just like that they tie the game. It's good (that I) have two goals but we will be more confident if we win."
It was the Brazilian's first MLS goal since signing with Toronto and his second overall after scoring midweek against visiting Bolton.
In the 77th minute Dallas would capitalize on multiple mistakes at the back for Toronto. While trying to play the ball out of trouble, TFC's Nick Garcia played a poor pass to Dwayne De Rosario who elected not to collect but attempt a back pass that rolled out for a corner. The ensuing corner kick saw an unmarked Rodriguez head the ball past Stefan Frei who was rooted to the ground.
"We gave them the ball and they got a corner kick out of it," Preki said of the play. "It was a lethargic play and give them the credit because they were sharper than us even though they stole the point. I didn't think they were a threat at all until then."
It was the Colombian's first tally since coming over from Real Cartagena in the Colombian first division.
TFC's Chad Barrett would come close in the 84th minute when he thought he'd put the home side up for good. After Nick LaBrocca played a long, hopeful ball in from the half-line, the ball found the diagonal run of Barrett who met the ball at the top of the circle with a powerful glancing header. The play fooled Dallas' Hartman who was caught off his line as he watched the attempt skip just wide of the post.
Minutes later Atiba Harris would threaten Toronto's goal after receiving the ball on the right wing. In the 86th minute Harris advanced the ball to the edge of the penalty area and hit a low, hard shot that deflected off a Toronto defender. The deflection forced Frei to scramble to his right and parry the shot just wide to preserve the 1-1 tie.
"We have to win the individual battles and take the intensity up a notch," Frei said following the game. "When we defend our set pieces it has to get better. We have to get better at it and quit conceding the silly goals in the long run."
The weather played a role throughout long portions of the match not allowing either team to take hold of the game and create good scoring chances. Toronto FC's best chance in the opening 45 minutes came in the 23rd when De Rosario stood over a free kick 20 yards from goal. De Rosario's attempt cleared the wall but Hartman was up to the task pushing the shot over the bar.
While Dallas elected to come and play a counter-attacking style, TFC's offense showed signs of life that has been missing in recent memory.
The second half also featured Toronto's latest DP signing, Mista, who joined the action around the 60 minute mark. The creative Spanish midfielder seemed a step slow at times but also showed intelligence on the ball with quick one and two touch passes with his back to goal. His perfectly guided set pieces gave Dallas fits throughout the dying portions of the match.
"(Mista) is not fit at all yet," Preki said. "We've been trying to get him some minutes and we'd like to see him touch the ball more. Today he had a few touches but we have to find a way to get him a lot more of the ball."
FC Dallas will be happy taking a point from the game as they take a stranglehold on the third spot in the West. Three points at home would have been huge for Toronto who would have jumped into a tie for second in the east with New York.
Dallas are back in action next Saturday when they visit the Rapids while TFC next play Tuesday night against Motagua (HON) in a preliminary CONCACAF Champions League game in Toronto.