The Ryan Nelsen era has begun at Toronto FC.
While the New Zealand native did not see his side earn a victory in his debut as a coach, he did see enough positives from his side during a 1-0 loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday to give him hope that things will head in the right direction.
“I feel really bad for the guys," he told MLSsoccer.com after the match. "They worked their socks off and put a real shift in. They had a really good first half in which I really feel they dictated the game and had a couple of very good opportunities. If we had taken one of those, it would have been a whole different ball game. We’ve played away from home and delivered a very good account of ourselves and had some very good chances. This team will only get better.”
The week leading up to the season opening had been an eventful one for Toronto. First, captain Torsten Frings announced his retirement, then a number of new players, including Welsh international Robert Earnshaw, signed with the club. Thus, while he expressed disappointment at not earning a tangible result, Nelsen also admitted that his team had delivered an encouraging performance under difficult circumstances.
“We had three or four guys out there who are just back (after being out injured) or who were new to the team,” Nelsen said. “We knew Vancouver would come back at some stage and come hard at us. There were fifteen minutes in the second half that we just had to get through and unfortunately what was a pretty routine long ball ended up being a case of us not winning the second ball and it resulted in a goal.”
Since taking the job, Nelsen had been more than candid in his desire for his players to be a team that is "hard to play against." He got exactly that on Saturday, and although the result was another loss for a club that has never made the playoffs, Nelsen will stick with the positives.
“Vancouver were really kind of dictated to in the first half, and I thought we played extremely well," Nelsen said. "I thought we showed our strength and character, and we were always in the game.”
Next up for TFC is their home opener against Sporting Kansas City at the Rogers Centre on March 9.