TORONTO — Two games into their 2013 MLS campaign, Toronto FC have looked like a completely different team from the one that finished last season with a 14-game winless streak.
According to TFC central defender Darren O’Dea, Toronto’s improved play in their first two league matches this year comes down to two things. First, the arrival of head coach Ryan Nelsen. Second, the addition of experienced players to the TFC roster.
“From Day 1, since the new manager has come in, there has been a certain type of way that he wants to play and we are building to that every day and we are improving,” O’Dea told reporters following Toronto’s 2-1 victory over Sporting Kansas City on Saturday.
“We’ve beaten a very good Kansas [City] team today. It is the gaffer, but also the players that he has brought in as well. Players like Danny Califf at the back and Robert [Earnshaw] up front. It’s a bit of experience and a bit of mental toughness and we probably lacked that last year.”
For O’Dea himself, Saturday’s victory was a long awaited and welcome result after a bumpy start to his MLS career.
After going winless in his first 10 appearances since signing with the Canadian club last August, O’Dea admitted he was relishing his first victory as a member of Toronto FC. But he also was plain in cautioning that it was only one game.
“We need to move forward so we don’t take one step forward and two steps back. It’s the first step in the right direction and we need to keep going,” O’Dea said. “We now need to keep our heads down and stay grounded.”
MLS Match Recap: Toronto FC 2, Sporting KC 1
One of the most glaring deficiencies that haunted Toronto at the tail end of 2012 was the squad’s propensity for defensive breakdowns and goals allowed late in matches. But even with Sporting KC ratcheting up the pressure and relentlessly attacking TFC in the second half on Saturday, the home team kept their shape and composure, bending at times but never breaking.
“You would be lying if you weren’t worrying [during the final 20 minutes of the match]," O'Dea said. "but truthfully, the resilience we have under this manager is something he had as a player and he’s trying to rub that off on the team. I think in the short time that he has been here, he has done that, so I probably felt more confident than I did last year during the last 20 minutes of games.”
Toronto will now look to carry their new found resilience and confidence to Montreal next Saturday for a Rivalry Week matchup against the Montreal Impact.