DeRo carries TFC back into playoff content

Captain's clutch performance helps turn back recent struggles

The seconds were ticking down late in second-half injury time Saturday night. Dwayne De Rosario stepped forward to take a free kick from just outside the penalty area, likely Toronto’s last scoring chance of the game.

What followed next could be the turning point in Toronto FC’s season.

The Reds captain unleashed a blast into the Houston Dynamo goal, easily eluding former teammate and Canadian goalkeeper Pat Onstad.

Its sheer power was a culmination of a game — and season’s worth — of frustrations. No fancy passes, no deception, no trickery. Just pure, unbridled force of will.

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After the game, an emotional De Rosario could barely put words together to express his feelings.

“Oh, I’m winded man,” De Rosario said. “It’s not the way we wanted to start, but we showed the commitment. We showed the tireless effort the team continues to show day in and day out."

The goal capped off an improbable rally for Toronto, who rallied to beat the Houston Dynamo, 2-1, on Saturday and keep alive their chances of making the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.

It marked Nick Dasovic’s first win as Toronto’s interim coach since he replaced the fired Preki last Tuesday. It was also just TFC's second road win of the season.

"This is one game we definitely needed to win, but hopefully we build on this," De Rosario said. "Like I said, it's emotional, I’m speechless, but I’m happy to help my team to get the result, and to get it against my former club — it’s bittersweet.”

For much of the game, nobody would have imagined TFC winning. Badly outplayed, Toronto committed another defensive error, allowing Brian Ching to score on a free kick — the third time in two games the Reds have allowed a goal on a set-piece.

Save for a Chad Barrett header off the crossbar in the first half, Toronto mustered little. They didn’t look like a team motivated by a sense of urgency — or even by a new coach who had vowed to make the game fun again.

Their body language oozed frustration and, at times, they looked defeated.

So it was perhaps of no surprise, then, that striker Chad Barrett — not one to sound off — held nothing back at half time, telling a sideline reporter that his team was being "slaughtered" and didn’t come to play.

But De Rosario wouldn’t concede defeat. Instead, he willed his team to victory. He put the team on his back, tying the game in the 60th minute on a free-kick strike — his 10th goal of the season — and persevered in the Houston heat to set up his 11th for the winner.

It was a classic performance by De Rosario, who scored his share of big goals while a member of the Houston Dynamo.

The TFC captain has had his struggles of late, seemingly stuck on nine goals for an eternity, but his own hardships didn’t prevent him from stepping up to lead his team when it needed him the most.

It was the kind of resilient performance that could pick up the entire squad as it approaches the final five games of the season.

With the three big points, Toronto kept pace with Colorado and Seattle, both winners Saturday, and now sit five points behind San Jose.

And Toronto’s next opponent next Saturday at home? San Jose. The Earthquakes have two games in hand, making a Toronto win that much more imperative.