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Toronto FC coach Ryan Nelsen cautions not to get 'too far ahead of ourselves' despite positive run

TORONTO – Jermain Defoe’s fourth game-winning goal of the season may have secured the full three points for Toronto FC, but the hard-fought 1-0 win over the San Jose Earthquakes was also a great example of how the team is coming together and establishing a winning culture on and off the field.

Defoe told reporters after the game that he thought Toronto was the better team, adding that he couldn’t really remember San Jose creating many chances. He compared the Earthquakes to the English team, saying “[San Jose] had a big man up front that caused some problems, and they were sort of really direct,” but added that his team’s defence was “unbelievable” on the day.

Defoe notched his seventh goal of the season via a penalty awarded to Toronto FC, after Alan Gordon pushed down Nick Hagglund in the box. Defoe stepped up and coolly slotted home the effort, beating Jon Busch and scoring the only goal of the game.

“It would have been nice to have scored a couple more goals but you still get the points, so yeah, we’ll take it,” Defoe added. 

While Defoe will earn the praise for the goal, it was Toronto FC head coach Ryan Nelsen who provided those witness to the post-game conference with the resounding message that this is a Toronto FC team that is still growing, still learning and, despite all the obstacles in terms of injuries or absences, a team that continues to pick up wins and prove its detractors wrong.

“How I’d say this is, I don’t think we are, as a team, playing as well as we can but we’re getting more points than I probably thought we’d get after 11 games,” Nelsen said. “It sounds like a big contradiction, but we’re showing a lot character and spirit, which I love. We have to get better, evolve as a team. What I wanted this Toronto FC team to be is, at least when teams play against us, [one where other teams] have to earn it to win it, they have to play really well to beat us.”

It’s Toronto’s third consecutive home victory, one that gives the team 19 points in the standings in 11 games, and a sixth win of the season. That sixth win matches the total wins in the 2013 campaign. It also puts Toronto in a playoff position with a handful of matches in hand on the rest of the Eastern Conference. 

Toronto FC now takes a three week break for the FIFA World Cup. Nelsen said he will continue to learn about his new players Luke Moore, Collen Warner and Dominic Oduro, all of whom played against the Earthquakes. He’ll be boosted with the potential return of Michael Bradley as well, as the team, now comfortable in the standings, continues its journey to a franchise first playoff appearance.

“We understand we’re in a nice position, but in no way are we getting too far ahead of ourselves,” Nelsen told reporters after the match. “We have to improve in a lot of aspects. All we worry about now is we’ve got a little break, can we get better in this break? We hope so.”

The focus remains on each game, as ever, as positive results continue to accumulate.

“All we’re thinking of is New York away,” Nelsen said. "It’s as simple as that!”

Armen Bedakian covers Toronto FC for MLSsoccer.com.