It has not taken Darren O’Dea long to establish himself as the leader of Toronto FC’s backline. That much was readily apparent in the Reds’ 1-1 draw with the Houston Dynamo on Saturday.
The Republic of Ireland international was a major reason Toronto’s defense held together to keep the possibility of a result in touch after the Houston Dynamo took the lead in the 21st minute at BBVA Stadium.
One of Toronto’s weaknesses has been giving up goals on set pieces. They gave up none on Saturday despite Houston’s big advantage in corner kicks, largely because of O’Dea’s influence.
“I’m very proud,” head coach Paul Mariner told reporters after the game. “It’s a change of mentality. You challenge your players because it’s something you don’t want: conceding on set pieces.
HIGHLIGHTS: HOU vs TOR
“So, I’m delighted. I thought Freddy [Hall] was terrific in goal in his second game and Darren O’Dea was absolutely terrific. The young guys coming in have done absolutely fantastic.”
O’Dea also made the pass that led to midfielder Terry Dunfield’s stunning header in the 85th minute, giving the Reds their second draw in Houston this season.
Dunfield was open and O’Dea didn’t miss him with a long left-footed pass after taking Jeremy Hall’s throw-in from the right side.
“I just put it into an area and it was a fantastic header,” O’Dea said. “I was delighted that we got something out of the game because we deserved it.”
It was payback of sorts for Toronto. Houston scored in the final minute on June 20 to gain a 3-3 draw the first time the teams met this season.
“I thought we played very well,” O’Dea said. “I think we could have won in the end, but we definitely improved our performance and now hopefully the results will come and if we keep playing hard we will win more than we lose.”
It was a significant result for Toronto because they were without two designated players – striker Eric Hassli and midfielder Torsten Frings who were left behind in Toronto.
Frings is being rested for Tuesday’s CONCACAF Champions League group stage match against Santos Laguna of Mexico at BMO Field. Hassli has back spasms and it is hoped that he will be able to play Tuesday.