Following a match in which his side had once again conceded a very late goal to take the shine off of what was another otherwise credible performance by his squad, Toronto FC head coach Ryan Nelsen could only lament his team’s inability to take advantage of a Philadelphia Union squad desperate to pull out a victory in order to stay in the playoff chase.
While many will point to a very well taken free kick in the fifth minute of second-half stoppage time by late game substitute Kleberson as the defining moment of the 1-0 Union victory, Nelsen saw the game very much as a missed opportunity in which his team did not take their opportunities to seal the victory well prior to the late Union goal.
“That was a desperate team that was trying to win the game,” Nelsen told MLSsoccer.com. “We knew that and we knew if we just sat back that they would come with numbers and we would get our opportunities to break, which we did.
“If we had put that 3-v-1 away or any of the 2-v-1s, it would have been a really strong performance coupled with a win,” Nelsen added. “We knew that as the match went on that the game would open up and we would get a glorious chance, and we got two or three of them. That’s football. If you don’t take your chances, you always leave yourself vulnerable like we did with the goal (by Kleberson).”
With TFC newcomer Bright Dike leading the attack with authority, the Reds had delivered arguably their best 60-plus minutes of road play this season, with the Toronto defending well, moving the ball effectively and getting into strong positions in the final third of the pitch.
In that vein, Nelsen stated that he was generally pleased with his team’s performance on the whole but he also admitted his frustration with the defensive errors that lead to the free kick that ultimately ended up being TFC’s undoing.
“We had a game plan and the players did really well,” Nelsen said. “Set pieces are so important for Philadelphia and we defended so well on set pieces. We were organized as a team and it was one sloppy play from us that gave them the chance that they had.
“Obviously, the soccer gods curse you when you don’t do the little things well,” Nelsen explained. “The lead-up to that goal had a couple of things that frustrated me and we got punished for it.”
On a night in which Toronto once again played well enough to come away with a better end result, Nelsen could only point to how close his team had once again come to a final score line that would have better reflected the shift that his players had put in.
“It was a very good set piece (by Philadelphia),” Nelsen said. “Our free kick (in the 80th minute by Robert Earnshaw) hits the cross bar and their one goes across the line and goes in.”