TORONTO — It was Ryan Nelsen's first-ever win as a manager. And the first at the helm of a Toronto FC team that last tasted a regular season victory in July 2012.
But the postgame press conference following Toronto's 2-1 home-opening triumph over Sporting Kansas City on Saturday was no time for the 35-year-old Nelsen to pat himself on the back. This "W" was about the team.
“I think for the whole club there have been a few mental scars over the past couple of years,” Nelsen told reporters. “To grind out a result like that, you needed mental strength and character. The guys showed that in abundance. That is a very good Kansas City team and to hold out when they [Toronto FC players] had a lot of adversity thrown at them, they showed a lot of strength and character.”
Forward Robert Earnshaw was the man-of-the-match for TFC, scoring a brace and pacing the Reds to a victory which ultimately ended a 15-game league winless streak that dated all the way back to last summer.
“[Robbie] has done it his whole career," Nelsen said. "He took his goal fantastically well. Hopefully that is a couple of many for this season."
But if Earnshaw earned the goalscoring plaudits, it was attacking midfielder John Bostock who earned the applause. The Englishman, who drew a penalty kick and created Toronto's most dangerous scoring chances, was rewarded with a standing ovation by the Rogers Centre crowd upon being subbed off in his first match since officially becoming a TFC player on Friday.
“You saw his feet when he earned the penalty," Nelsen said about Bostock. "He draws players to him and he is very good technically. I think he excites the crowd as well. He’s got a bit of trickery to him and there is always an end product to it, be it a foul or a shot or something.
"I think he probably needs a few more games. He was obviously fatigued a bit there. All of these guys – him, Hogan [Ephraim], Rob will get better once they adjust to the league and get their legs under them.”
Ultimately, while Nelsen admitted that he liked what he saw from his side on Saturday, as they capitalized on their chances and delivered a strong defensive performance against a strong opponent, the New Zealander was also quick to emphasize that Toronto still has plenty of work to do before they are the team he envisions them to be.
“We’re still a long way away from where we want to be. I’m so pleased with the win and I really don’t care about any records. More importantly it is a step forward,” Nelsen said. “I think there was improvement in Vancouver [last week] and there was improvement today. We’ve got to take baby steps in a way to become a very good team.”