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Eastern Conference Championship

Canadian Championship: Toronto FC's Steven Caldwell owns up to handball in Montreal Impact draw

Steven Caldwell

Photo Credit: 
USA Today Sports

TORONTO – In a game featuring plenty of firepower up top, it was Toronto FC’s two central defenders who stole the show in one way or another, with both Steven Caldwell and Doneil Henry providing plenty of talking points during the match.

Caldwell was involved in a controversial non- penalty call for a handball in the box, which angered Montreal head coach Frank Klopas. Caldwell and TFC coach Ryan Nelsen both admitted that the ball did look to touch the captain’s arm in the box, with Nelsen adding that Alvaro Rey had been pushed in the box beforehand with no call.

“It definitely hit my hand,” Caldwell conceded. “In my defense, I never moved my hand but I felt that, in such close quarters, they’re usually given. My hand was there, I was thinking of blocking the shot and it definitely hit off my hand. It’s one of those things that always evens itself out in the season.”

While Caldwell’s penalty may linger in the minds of the Impact, Toronto FC fans will have Henry's name on their lips. The Canadian international scored a peach of a goal in the first half, a turn of the tide after he had conceded a few penalties in succession in the previous three matches. With the emergence of Nick Hagglund, his spot in the starting XI had been put up for contention, but Henry said he needed to get himself back into the line up.

“I needed to find myself again,” Henry told reporters after the match. “It’s been a rough month.”

Back in the line up, Henry proved his doubters wrong with a powerful headed goal. The young Canadian defender got all of a corner kick by Daniel Lovitz, giving Toronto FC a 1-0 lead in the first half. It was a headed effort that left Montreal keeper Evan Bush rooted to his spot, but Henry says it’s a play that he had actually prepared for prior to the game.

“I really do work hard and try to train myself to just get a feeling for connecting the ball from the corner kicks,” Henry said. “Dan Lovitz whipped in a great ball. To be fair, Jason Bent, one of our assistant coaches, drew that play up, with me coming back inside and I get one in. So, well written up by Jason and I loved that goal.”

His goal earned the praises of his teammates, too. Caldwell called Henry’s goal a “plus” but added that Henry’s “defending was superb.” Bradley Orr, who played through a painful (and possibly cracked) rib injury, spoke equally highly of the 20-year-old central defender, telling reporters that it’s “going to be an exciting future for him if he keeps performing like that, which we all know he can.” 

So, with the praise of his teammates and a third professional goal under his belt, was today’s match a bit of redemption for Henry?

“Sure, you can say that, but I see how professionals go through it,” Henry said. “It’s a roller coaster ride. You’ll have more negative days than positive ones that you can remember. I’m not going to let those things get me down. I am working hard and I know I’m putting the work in, so those days will come.”