TORONTO — With Toronto FC winning their final match of the 2013 season in an impressive fashion over Canadian rivals the Montreal Impact, TFC head coach Ryan Nelsen was quick to highlight his team’s performance as a sign of things to come for next year.
“I thought the first half was absolutely fantastic and the guys passed the ball extremely well and controlled the game,” Nelsen said at his post-match press conference. “The only thing that disappointed me was that we didn’t get that second goal. We knew if we had got that second goal that we probably would have gone on to win by a bit more.”
“When you are up 1-0 there is always that pressure and obviously they [Montreal] are a team in the playoff hunt that needed to get something out of the game,” Nelsen added. “To the credit of the [TFC] players, they looked like the team that was going to go to the playoffs today.”
While the victory was only Toronto’s second in the last two months, Nelsen explained that the win over the Impact was really a natural extension of how his team has been competing in the final weeks of the season.
“I think you saw a glimmer of what is to come, not just in this game but also in the last two games as well,” Nelsen said. “That is now two playoff teams on the road and one at home and none of them scored a goal against us in open play. We created enough chances to win all three of those games. So we have evolved as a young team and we have matured and we’ve learned from mistakes.”
The TFC gaffer was also particularly deliberate in doling out praise with regard to the young players in his lineup who rose to the occasion and outplayed Montreal.
“It was two rookies [Jonathan Osorio and Kyle Bekker] playing in midfield against a very experienced Montreal midfield group and I thought they were fantastic,” Nelsen said. “I thought they controlled the midfield very well. Both are so comfortable on the ball and they looked like experienced players out there.”
The Reds can also enter the offseason with renewed optimism regarding their youthful back line, which surrendered few clear opportunities for MLS co-leading scorer Marco Di Vaio.
“[The defense] had to put their heads on the line with some very dangerous deliveries from Montreal,” Nelsen noted. “It was the unsexy stuff but it is the stuff that wins you football games. A 'keeper who in the first half didn’t have much to do also needed to come up big and he came up big.
“The back four with Ashtone Morgan, Doneil Henry and Mark Bloom is still really young and even [goalkeeper] Joe Bendik hasn’t had much experience as well," he continued. "As I said, in the last three games it has only been a couple of set pieces that opened us up. That’s something we have to work on.”