Last time Toronto FC faced off against the New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium, back in May, New England easily dispatched the Reds and sent them to a fifth consecutive loss and a ninth straight match without a victory.
Though New England were again industrious and threatening in their 1-0 loss to Toronto on Sunday evening, TFC ultimately looked like a different and much more steeled side than the one that played against Jay Heaps’s squad several months back.
“I think we showed the difference between this game and the last time we played here,” TFC head coach Ryan Nelsen told MLSsoccer.com by phone after the game. “We looked like a much tougher unit. I thought it was a top class performance from the guys. It really showed their character and mental strength. They worked ever so hard and stayed organized and in a really good shape.”
With the road victory, Toronto have now earned back-to-back wins for the first time this season and also picked up a hard-earned victory against a side that had been clicking on all cylinders as of late.
“We knew we were going to play against a team that had two away wins in a row and who were coming into the match full of confidence on their home field,” Nelsen said. “Jay Heaps has done a fantastic job with the New England team.
"It is also very awkward playing on the artificial turf, as the guys aren’t used to it. So we knew it was going to be a difficult night and that everybody would have to stick together. But we also knew we would get our chances if we kept our shape and that we would be able to catch them on the counter.”
Toronto did not engineer many scoring chances on the night, but scored early on a fantastic individual effort by midfielder Matias Laba and then bunkered down effectively for over ninety minutes to secure all three points.
“The goal was an incredible one by Matias and then the other guys backed him up and made it a match winning goal,” Nelsen said. “I don’t want to single out just one guy because I think everybody’s positional play was very good. We also needed a bit of luck of course. You need that when you play away at any place, but this is such pleasing win because Jay has his team going very well and they have been together for a while.”
Following a match that was quite physical and chippy at times, Nelsen was quick to point to Toronto’s win over the Revolution as something that highlighted the progress his team has made over what has at times been a challenging season for TFC.
“Things don’t happen overnight obviously and we are all learning from each other and we’re getting better and better,” Nelsen stated. “We are a very young team and sometimes they have to go through experiences in games.”
“None of the players will ever back down from the physical challenges,” Nelsen added.” They all really want to win for the club and the fans and they know what it means to be playing for Toronto FC. That means being able to handle both the physical side and the mental side and having the mental strength to see out the game. Anybody can have that kind of tough guy physical strength, but it is the mental strength that really sets teams apart.”