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7. MLS WRAP: Preseason fine-tuning
March 26th, 2007 1AM



By Ridge Mahoney

South Carolina and Puerto Rico were the venues for competitions over the weekend mixing teams from MLS and USL.

Dema Kovalenko scored in the final minute and Richard Mulrooney debuted for Toronto FC against several of his former San Jose teammates on Saturday in the Carolina Challenge Cup.

Kovalenko's goal scraped out a 1-0 win for the New York Red Bulls over the Charleston Battery, whose goalkeeper, Dusty Hudock, thwarted the MLS team several times with sharp saves and stoned Claudio Reyna on a penalty kick.

Mulrooney went the full 90 minutes as Toronto coach Mo Johnston added yet another element to a midfield he believes will be one of the best in the league. Toronto, though, fell 2-0 to the Houston Dynamo in Mulrooney's debut.

Defender Ryan Cochrane scored the first goal after Toronto keeper Greg Sutton had misplayed a corner kick and Chris Wondolowski, who scored Houston's second goal in its 2-0 victory over Pachuca in the CONCACAF Champions Cup, ran through the Toronto back line to collect a Kevin Goldthwaite crossfield ball and strike it past Sutton.

"Toronto has a solid foundation, some really good players coming in," said Mulrooney, who lined up with former Dallas teammate Ronnie O'Brien, Andy Welsh, and ex-Rev Jose Cancela in the midfield. Welsh international Carl Robinson was with his national team. "Even though tonight's performance was not the greatest, I expect we will do very well this season."

The Dynamo played Toronto without Brian Ching, Wade Barrett and Brian Mullan, who are with the U.S. national team, and Ricardo Clark, who was called into the national team camp but had to withdraw because of an LCL sprain suffered against Pachuca.

The competition resumes Wednesday with the Red Bulls playing Toronto and Charleston hosting Houston, and concludes Saturday with another doubleheader.

Los Angeles defeated the Puerto Rico Islanders, 2-1, on Saturday after FC Dallas had downed Rochester, 2-0, in Bayamon, Puerto Rico with goals by Juan Carlos Toja (in his first match for the team) and Arturo Alvarez.

Chris Albright and Nate Jaqua scored for the Galaxy, which had beaten Rochester, 3-2, Thursday on the first day of the competition. Albright and Jaqua both scored against the Rhinos as well, as did Kyle Martino. Puerto Rico beat FC Dallas, 2-0, in its opener.

The Galaxy will have a new member when it resumes training in LA this week. Defender Shavar Thomas has been acquired from Kansas City in exchange for a 2008 conditional SuperDraft second round pick. He was originally drafted by Dallas in the 2003 SuperDraft and has played with Galaxy defender Tyrone Marshall on the Jamaican national team.

Real Salt Lake ended a week of training in Fresno by beating the PDL Fresno Fuego, 3-0, Saturday with goals by Chris Brown, Jason Kreis and Luis Tejada. Mehdi Ballouchy, playing as an attacking midfielder behind sole striker Jeff Cunningham, set up the goals for Kreis and Tejada.

Freddy Adu and Chris Seitz are training in Texas with the U.S. under-20 team and will rejoin RSL later in the week. RSL closes out the preseason match schedule Saturday against Colorado in Las Vegas.

"I'm very pleased with the week's work here in Fresno," said RSL head coach John Ellinger. "We now have two weeks to fine-tune ourselves for April 7 against Dallas."

Fire midfielder Ivan Guerrero played against his teammates last Thursday as Honduras defeated Chicago, 2-1, in Sunrise, Fla. Calen Carr's run into the penalty area yielded a foul and penalty kick that was converted by Chad Barrett for Chicago. Guerrero stayed with the Honduran team and was not in the Fire lineup Sunday when it lost, 1-0, to Miami FC of the USL.

Chicago winds up the preseason in Ridgeland, Miss. with matches against the University of Alabama-Birmingham Thursday and Chivas USA Saturday. It has lost seven of its 12 preseason games.

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