It was a game that had it all – hot, humid conditions, a missed penalty, plenty of action and even a head-scratching mistake that led to the opening goal.
And that's not to mention Toronto FC's congested schedule that had them playing three games in a week. All were factors that made walking away with a 2-2 draw Saturday night against the Houston Dynamo at BBVA Compass Stadium, thanks to equalizing goals from Gilberto and Dominic Oduro, a result TFC head coach Ryan Nelsen was more than willing to accept.
“Coming into Houston in July, and after Wednesday’s game, there was a very mental and physical fatigue factor,” Nelsen told MLSsoccer.com in a postgame phone interview. “Obviously, that first goal wasn’t a great one, it was a bit of a comedy of errors, a bit of a mistake but then we get ourselves back in the game. But, when you look at the series, if you take a series against Houston in July, you’d take four points.”
The match featured a new-look partnership up top for Toronto FC, with Luke Moore once again getting the start. But he partnered with Gilberto rather than Jermain Defoe, who started from the bench and came on near the hour mark.
Still, his absence wasn’t felt, as there were plenty of chances with Gilberto and Oduro both finding the back of the net. And TFC missed a golden chance at a third goal when Michael Bradley clanged a penalty kick off the post after Corey Ashe took down Moore in the box in the 28th minute.
“It shows you that even if Jermain’s not there, we’re still a very attacking team, a very dynamic team going forward,” Nelsen said, before adding that he was very pleased with Gilberto’s second goal of the season. “The guys on the team are cheering [Gilberto] on more than anybody; he’s such a lovely lad, and he works so hard. His teammates are probably more happy than he is.”
It’s Gilberto’s second goal of the season, but it’s his first from open play.
Nelsen went on to explain that the combination of Gilberto and Moore wasn’t so much with the midweek exhibition with Tottenham Hotspur fixture in mind, but was made with the intention of not over working Defoe, given the amount of playing time and travel the English forward has had this season with Toronto and previously in the Premier League.
“We’ve got to manage him through these 18 months of constant football,” Nelsen said. “It’ll be the same with Michael. We’ve got good players, and we don’t rely on Jermain.”
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That sentiment will be put to the test in Toronto’s next league fixture against Sporting Kansas City, after Defoe picked up a yellow card after a bit of a tussle with Dynamo defender David Horst that sees him suspended from accumulation. The TFC forward looked the lesser of the two aggressors, but he was the only one to see yellow.
As it is, Toronto FC walk away from BBVA Compass Stadium with only one point in a match that leaves the team wanting for more. And aking into account the series of mistakes that led to Houston's first goal when a back pass by Bradley Orr that was intended for goalkeeper Joe Bendik was scouped up and deposited in goal by Will Bruin, there was some sentiment that TFC let three points slip away.
“Yeah, 100-percent,” Nelsen said, when asked if he thought his side could have had three points on the night. “I think we did enough in the first half to win this game. We could have dictated terms if we got our nose in front by dropping our lines and become more compact, but we couldn’t get our nose in front.”