Old friends, new places as Toronto FC head to Houston

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TORONTO – Toronto FC head coach Paul Mariner and Houston Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear have known each other for 20 years.

They go back to 1992 when Mariner was player-coach with the San Francisco Bay Blackhawks of the American Professional Soccer League and Kinnear was a central midfielder.

“And a very good one as well,” Mariner said.

They’ll put that decades-long friendship aside on Wednesday as Toronto FC (1-10-0) play the Dynamo (5-4-4) at BBVA Compass Stadium (9 pm ET; watch LIVE online).

“He’s done a fantastic job there,” Mariner told MLSsoccer.com of Kinnear on Tuesday. “The players are very well coached. They are very well drilled.”

Mariner admires the way the Dynamo have been put together, consistently adding younger players around a group of veterans who know how to handle the highs and lows of an MLS season.

“He’s got a fantastic core group of players and he adds to the core group very intelligently, he selects well.” Mariner said. “The core group are part of the driving force that keeps them going.”

Toronto FC are coming off a 2-0 loss at Sporting Kansas City last Saturday, their first game in three weeks and the first under Mariner as head coach since he took over on June 7 from Aron Winter.

“I’ve always been an admirer of Brad Davis, fantastic left foot, fantastic delivery,” Mariner said of the Dynamo left midfielder, who was MVP runner-up in 2011. “Very dangerous from set pieces, their fullbacks can get forward. It’s a very similar challenge to KC.  So we’ve got to be on our game, obviously.”

Toronto allowed two first-half goals in Kansas City but made a run in the second half that has Mariner encouraged.

“They maybe took the foot off the gas a little bit but we definitely had some very good chances and were unlucky not to score,” Mariner said. “I was very pleased with the second half performance, when you factor in we’ve been off quite a long time and the change. As the game went on I was taking a lot of positives out from it.”

Center back Adrian Cann came out of Saturday’s game with a sprained knee. Mariner said the extent of the injury won’t be known until Friday when he will be checked out in Toronto.

It could mean some playing time for Jamaican international center back Dicoy Williams who has not played for a calendar year after undergoing knee surgery.

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