By VINCE MADURI
ORLANDO, Fla.– Ryan Nelsen spent his first game on the sidelines for Toronto FC, albeit in a preseason game as the Reds were beaten, 1-0, by the Columbus Crew in the opening match of the Disney Pro Soccer Classic.
Columbus controlled the game with 56% possession and some tough, aggressive defense which resulted in three yellow cards and 13 fouls.
The sole goal of the afternoon came off a corner taken by Federico Higuain and headed in after deflecting off the cross bar by newly-signed Brazilian defender Glauber.
The Crew’s win over TFC kicked off a busy day in the Disney Classic, with six MLS teams playing in four matches on Saturday. The Montreal Impact and D.C. United posted victories
Dominic Oduro looked very comfortable in his first competitive match with the Crew. A large majority of the Columbus attack focused around the combination of Oduro and Higuain from right to center. Oduro’s pacey runs on the right wing and Higuain’s creativity in the hole behind rookie Ryan Finley made for a very nice pairing.
The combination could have resulted in more goals from the run of play if Finley could have held up play a bit better and had a better touch on the ball on a few occasions. The Notre Dame product started his first game since he transferred from Duke over two years ago, and he had an overall up and down performance throughout his 69 minutes.
On the Toronto side, Ryan Nelsen was pleased with his team’s overall performance. The Reds limited chances, even though they conceded a large majority of possession.
Rookie Emery Welshman started on the right wing and made some nice runs, getting in behind the Crew defense a few times and almost drew a penalty in the first half. Luis Silva was the best player on the field for TFC and has an opportunity to take a giant leap forward this season.
Here is a rundown of the rest of Saturday’ matches from the Disney Pro Soccer Classic:
MONTREAL DOWN SPORTING KC
Another coach debuting with his new squad, Marco Schallibaum lead Montreal to victory in day one of the Disney Pro Soccer Classic, beating Sporting Kansas City 2-1.
Kansas City combined very well in midfield, looking to be in regular season form in the center of the field. The new combination of Zusi and Felhaiber worked very well in its debut for SKC but the final pass was lacking all afternoon. New striker Claudio Bieler showed a lot of hustle and aggression but was never really fed properly for him to get on the score sheet.
Graham Zusi scored the lone SKC goal after unleashing a bomb from well outside the box, across the goal finding the far corner.
Montreal defended incredibly well for just a preseason matchup. Upon winning the ball back, the Impact looked for a quick counter attack time after time and caught the Kansas City defense napping on two occasions.
The first, Patrice Bernier found Marco Di Vaio on a long run up the middle in between the center backs. Di Vaio stayed onside and finished calmly.
The second, Kansas City left back Josh Gardner was caught far up the field and Andrew Wenger slipped in behind him while Impact academy product Maxim Tissot stormed forward from his left back position and delivered a perfect threw ball to Wenger on the counter attack and the striker slotted the winning goal home.
However, Sporting Kansas City should be very happy with this performance. They commanded much of the play with 55% possession and really looked good in midfield where their passing was clean much of the match. Benny Feilhaber seems to be taking to his new team very well and establishing a solid partnership with Graham Zusi.
Another positive for SKC was trialist right back Jerome Mechak who displayed terrific athletic ability getting up and down the sideline, overlapping with Zusi, allowing the midfielder to tuck inside without losing team width. Mechak could prove to be good depth for SKC if they decide to sign him, and the full back could be signed and then spun back to Orlando City on loan, who he played with last season.
ORLANDO CITY FORCE DRAW WITH UNION
Orlando City seemed to be making a statement in their match-up with the Union. The USL Pro team’s midfield pressured Philadelphia all game long and were not afraid to get physical when they needed to. This led to some frustration being displayed by Union players, notable Danny Cruz and Sheanon Williams.
Ultimately the game ended in a 1-1 draw with the goals coming from Dennis Chin of Orlando City and trialist Leo Fernandes for Philadelphia. Fernandes was set free by a brilliant feed from Roger Torres who entered the match in the second half and instantly had a calming presence on the team.
Conor Casey and Sebastian Le Toux started the game over Jack McInerney. Casey saw competitive match action for the first time since September 30 of last year and played the hold up role to Le Toux who was allowed to roam and make runs in behind the defense. The Frenchman looked dangerous at times in this role and the added competition should make McInerney a better player over time.
Jeff Parke started his first game for the Union and was very solid in the middle of a very young defense.
But the major factor for the Union will be the play of Michael Farfan in the middle of the park. Farfan looked dangerous on the ball all evening and showed terrific vision and flair. If Philadelphia is going to make the leap into a playoff contender, it’s going to have to be behind Farfan.
DOUBLES FOR PAJOY, KEMP LEAD D.C. UNITED PAST ROWDIES
Lionard Pajoy’s finishing ability was in midseason form as the forward scored a brace to lead DC United over the Rowdies in their first game of the tournament. The first, Pajoy finished with a nice header off a cross from Chris Korb and the second was chipped over the goalkeeper’s head elegantly.
As the game wore on, Tampa Bay’s defense started to break apart and rookie Taylor Kemp took advantage getting on two crosses to make the final score 4-0.
Overall, the Rowdies didn’t prove much of a challenge to DC, but it still must be noted that De Rosario looked in good shape and the playmaker shouldn’t miss a beat going into this season. Nick DeLeon also looked to be in good shape and did some nice things with the ball at his feet. DeLeon has a chance to take a step forward into elite status this year if he stays healthy.
New strikers Casey Townsend and Rafael did not play but are expected to take part in Wednesday’s match against Sporting Kansas City.