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Toronto FC forward Ali Gerba falls as he attempts to shoot against River Plate goalkeeper Daniel Vega during a friendly match in Toronto on Wednesday July 22, 2009. (FRANK GUNN)
Toronto FC forward Ali Gerba falls as he attempts to shoot against River Plate goalkeeper Daniel Vega during a friendly match in Toronto on Wednesday July 22, 2009. (FRANK GUNN)

Reds come unstuck in the shootout Add to ...

Ali Gerba hopes he showed enough in his Toronto FC debut to stay in the starting lineup.

The 27-year-old from Montreal scored in the shootout and had two great chances to put his team ahead in the first half, but it wasn't enough as Argentina's River Plate beat Toronto FC 4-3 on penalties to claim the Carlsberg Cup international friendly at BMO Field on Wednesday night.

"You know when you go to (a penalty shootout) anybody can win, so it's Russian Roulette," said Gerba. "Anybody can win."

It's hoped that Gerba, who is coming off a successful CONCACAF Gold Cup for Canada, can bring his scoring touch to Major League Soccer.

"It's the decision of the coach," said Gerba of his place in the team. "I just want to get (as many) games as I can possibly play."

After the teams finished 0-0 after 90 minutes, German Pezella scored in the sixth round of the shootout to put River Plate ahead in front of 20,005 fans.

Toronto defender Marco Velez had a chance to extend the shootout, but fired high over Leandro Chichizola's goal.

Toronto FC assistant coach Nick Dasovic, taking over sidelines duties for the night from interim head coach Chris Cummins, was pleased with his team's effort against a tough opponent.

"It was a fun game to be a part of because it was open both ways," said Dasovic.

In the first half, Toronto FC had the better scoring chances and in the 27th minute Gerba came close. A ball in from Toronto native Dwayne De Rosario skipped on the turf and handcuffed the new striker.

"It hit the turf before I have the chance," said Gerba. "The more you get the chance, that means you're on a good position so you take it positive and hopefully to do better the next one."

Gerba, who signed with Toronto FC in June, had another glorious chance to score his first goal with his new club in the 44th minute when Pablo Vitti played a ball over the top but Gerba saw his shot saved by Chichizola.

Toronto FC fans also got a first glimpse of 2009 first-round pick O'Brian White. The 23-year-old Jamaican-born striker, taken fourth in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft, is coming off a serious knee injury suffered in his last season at the University of Connecticut.

Dasovic said he was pleased with White's effort.

"(White) started as kind of a withdrawn striker which he doesn't play really," said Dasovic.

"(He) ended up playing right wing for us and he just said to me 'Coach I'll run I just want to get fit."'

White, who moved to Toronto as a teenager, enjoyed a terrific 2007 season at UConn, scoring an NCAA-high 23 goals to capture the Hermann Trophy as U.S. college soccer's player of the year.

"I felt pretty good out there, my first game in a very long time. I just tell myself I'm just back into the game for the first time in nine months," said White.

River Plate were without many notables, including forward Ariel Ortega and midfielders Marcelo Gallardo and Diego Buonanotte.

Still, River showed their skill, while Toronto FC used their muscle and superior size up front to create chances.

In the second half, both teams subbed players in and out and in the 78th minute, Matias Abelairas saw his shot from just outside the area tipped over the bar by Toronto goalkeeper Brian Edwards.

Edwards, making his first appearance of the season, took the place of rested starter Stefan Frei.

In the 58th minute, Velez sent a cross into the area from the right that midfielder Gabe Gala headed on top of Chichizola's net.

River Plate had its best chance of the first half in the 32nd minute when 18-year-old Toronto FC defender Emmanuel Gomez lost the ball in midfield. River galloped forward, but Edwards made a save off Gustavo Bou from outside the penalty area.

Vitti, on loan from Argentina's Independiente, sent a cross in for Carl Robinson who saw his header saved by Chichizola in the 41st minute, with the River Plate 'keeper also stopping Gala on the follow up.

River Plate finished with five shots on target to Toronto FC's three.

Toronto FC lost last year's Carlsberg Cup to Mexican side Pachuca on penalties.

Toronto's next league match is Saturday in Columbus against the Crew.

Toronto (7-6-5) sits fourth in the East, one point behind third-place Columbus (6-3-9) and two points back of the division-leading Chicago Fire (7-3-7).

River Plate have been training in Edmonton and return west to face English Premier League side Everton at Commonwealth Stadium on July 25. The team then flies to Montreal to round out its three-game Canadian tour Aug. 4 against the Impact.

Notes: Vitti wore the captain's armband for Toronto FC. The Argentine faced River Plate for the first time since Oct. 22, 2006, when the forward was playing for his hometown Rosario Central. . . Gerba wore the No. 10 shirt for Toronto FC. . . The game marked the fifth international Toronto FC have hosted at BMO Field. In 2007, the club tied Portugal's Benfica 1-1 before losing Aston Villa of the English Premier League 4-2. In 2008, Toronto fell to Pachuca before losing to Independiente 1-0, with Vitti scoring for the visitors. . . Founded in 1901, River Plate plays its home games at the 65,645-seat River Plate Stadium in Buenos Aires.

 

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