TORONTO - Toronto FC Head Coach Ryan Nelsen was understandably gutted following another late game collapse by his team on Saturday afternoon.
While boos rained down from the stands at BMO Field following Warren Creavalle's almost inexplicable equalizer in the 94th minute of TFC's 1-1 draw against the Houston Dynamo, the TFC gaffer went to great lengths to highlight the fact that his team had almost completely dominated a side that was a finalist in the MLS Cup the past two seasons and is expected to contend for the title again this year.
"I thought it was an absolutely brilliant performance against the MLS Cup finalists. I don't think (Houston) had an opportunity on goal (in the second half) and we had three or four clear opportunities," Nelsen told reporters following Saturday's match. "I thought the guys played really well and I am absolutely gutted for them. It was a performance that should have been rewarded with three points."
"I was disappointed that they had a man sent off to tell you the truth," Nelsen added. "Sometimes it can be a bit awkward when a team goes down a man. They become like a wounded tiger and you kind of relax a bit more. Many times you will see a 10-man team come back and do well."
Nelsen was peppered with questions about Toronto's propensity for conceding very late goals following the match and he pointed to both a lack of experience and the absence of a "hyper-focus" during those crucial moments when his team has been trying to close out a win as the determining factors.
"We have some young guys at the back and they just have to learn that you have to be as strong in important situations in the game as in any other part of the game," Nelsen said. "There are times when there has to be a hyper-focus in certain parts of a game and in certain areas of a game. When you are up 1-0 in the 92nd minute, at that time there should be a hyper-focus and an intensity that gets you over the finish line. You get that through experience and through doing it week, week out."
Saturday night's result was the third time Toronto have conceded a late equalizer in the 87th minute or later. That's equal to at least four points that could be said to have been left on the table. Plus, arguably, TFC could have picked up a few others points in other matches, including in their season-opener against Vancouver.
"We are at stage where we should be sitting on 13 points (instead of seven)," Nelsen said. "It's a learning curve and, if they can't start to see games out, it's going to be very painful."