Chad Barrett made it to Salt Lake City in time to play for Toronto FC in a rare Monday night MLS contest, but never got into uniform, much less the match. As the live body sent by Chicago to TFC in the Brian McBride allocation deal, Barrett spent the match in limbo, frozen between teams for reasons unknown. Toronto rallied with a blistering Amado Guevara free kick in the 84th minute to tie the match, 1-1, then quickly conceded a Robbie Findley strike to lose, 2-1. On Thursday, Commissioner Don Garber said TFC and the Fire had agreed to a deal by which McBride, claimed via allocation by Toronto more than a month ago, would be traded to Chicago.
In exchange, according to a source, Toronto would receive Barrett, a first-round pick in the 2009 SuperDraft, and an undisclosed amount of allocation money. But as of Monday, McBride had reportedly not signed an MLS contract, and without his signature the deal cannot be finalized, and thus Barrett cannot officially join Toronto, which is locked in its own forward dilemma.
A deal for former Manchester City striker Paul Dickov hit a snag last week. What snag? Has Dickov upped his demands? Has TFC balked at paying him approximately $500,000 guaranteed for the remainder of this season and next season, or has MLS refused to tender such a contract to a 35-year-old? Is there a competing bid for Dickov, who rejected an offer from one of his former clubs, Leicester City, before visiting Toronto?
TFC has first claim on Dickov via the discovery process and after visiting Toronto two weeks ago, Dickov and team officials had reportedly agreed to terms, but maybe not.
Pending the acquisitions of Dickov and Barrett, TFC has been discussing trade options for Jeff Cunningham, who has fallen so far out of favor with Coach John Carver and director of soccer Mo Johnston that he's been banished to the reserve team. But Barrett's unavailability resulted in Carver sending on Cunningham two minutes after RSL defender Jamison Olave's first MLS goal broke open a 0-0 game.
Conspiracy theorists will wonder if the Fire has simply dragged its feet so as to prevent Barrett from playing for TFC as long as possible in retaliation for the impasse that has left McBride marooned. One source said the hang-up may be unresolved issues between McBride and Chicago management, though the two sides are believed to have reached agreement regarding salary and length of contract, and that MLS has approved those terms of the deal.
TFC keeper Greg Sutton stoned RSL several times in the first half and blessed the goalpost after it repelled a close-range effort from Findley after one of Sutton's teammates failed to clear Chris Wingert's cross. TFC nearly took an undeserved 1-0 lead two minutes before halftime when Laurent Robert's wickedly swerving drive beat keeper Nick Rimando during its flight onto the crossbar.
Olave misfired on a Javier Morales free kick shortly before escaping defender Marco Velez and connecting with a Wingert cross. A foul by Olave provided Guevara with a free kick about 25 yards out from goal in the 84th minute, and despite a heroic dive by Rimando, Guevara curled it into the top corner.
Just three minutes later, Sutton beat out a drive from Kyle Beckerman, and Findley cut inside with the rebound to fire it past a pair of sprawling defenders and into the net off Sutton's knee.
Carver and Johnston will bemoan the absence of Barrett and perhaps grumble about events beyond their control, but a lack of defense on Olave's header and slow reactions to Beckerman's rebound are why RSL (7-6-6) sits atop the Western Conference, and Toronto (6-7-4) is one of six MLS teams with 22 points.