Julian de Guzman

Preki Praises Players After Win

TORONTO — Toronto FC couldn’t be confused for playing “the beautiful game.” Not yet, not at this point.

But the Reds are slowly starting to come together under the Preki brand of soccer just like a child learns to walk under the tutelage of a patient father.

Never mind that the defense sometimes can’t clear the front of its goal or the midfield can’t create service or the strikers don’t get enough shots on goal.

Ignore the fact that the team has yet to play well for a full 90 minutes. This team is showing signs it is starting to -- wait for it -- gel.

“The commitment of the group was superb,” said Toronto FC coach Preki after his side shut out the Seattle Sounders 2-0 on Sunday with two second-half goals.

“I thought they worked really hard for each other," he said. "Something I’ve seen in the last few weeks in training, they’re working for each other, they’re committed and when you’re committed a lot of times good things happen and today good things happened for us.

“When my group is committed like that, they work hard, they look like a team to me," Preki continued. "It’s good progress for me because now I see the group of men in the locker room that want to win, so hopefully we can build on this.”

The case in point is the back line, with three new players thrust together to join incumbent Nana Attakora. On Sunday they resembled a competent group. Sure, Maksim Usanov makes the coaches nervous with his fouls near the penalty area. But as a unit, it did a decent job of shutting down the Sounders on a rainy and cool afternoon at BMO Field.

Even when Sounders coach Sigi Schmid inserted strikers Steve Zakuani and Fredy Montero in search of an equalizer, the group didn’t panic or break down, something that was an inevitability with last year’s defense.

There would be no late second half goals conceded -- something that denied the team a playoff spot last season.

“I had three saves or so, other than that they contained some very strong attackers,” said TFC goalkeeper Stefan Frei. "Montero came in late and Zakuani, but they were there and they didn’t have that many chances ... I think [Freddie] Ljunberg was kept quiet pretty well, so I have to commend the guys they did a great job.”

Even the embattled Chad Barrett, who just can’t seem to get a goal despite another yeoman's effort up front, received praise from Preki for his work ethic.

“I thought Chad worked really really hard for the team. I really don’t care that he didn’t score a goal,” Preki said. “I told him, ‘Chad you’re on a winning team and you’re playing.’ I want players who are on a winning team regardless of whether they score or are not scoring. I want players that are committed to winning. Chad Barrett is one of those guys that need confidence, he needs to somebody to believe in him. I really believe in him. He can be a lot better. He has a lot of goals in him, he’s just gotta get that one [goal], then the second one and things will be rolling for him.”

Toronto continues its tough stretch of three games in seven days with a showdown against the Montreal Impact Wednesday in the opener of the Nutrilite Canadian Championship. It’ll end with an away date against defending MLS champions Real Salt Lake on Saturday.

Sunday's win will allow TFC, if just for one day, to forget its many lingering issues and continue walking without falling down.