With their 1-0 loss to the Chicago Fire on Saturday evening, Toronto FC fell to a desperate team chasing a playoff spot for their second match in a row, and delivered a second straight performance in which they did not concede a goal from open play.
However, while TFC head coach Ryan Nelsen could only tip his hat to the brilliant free-kick goal scored by the Philadelphia Union’s Kleberson two weeks ago, he couldn’t help but feel that his team were extremely hard done by on referee Edvin Jurisevic's most important decision on Saturday evening.
The man in the middle awarded a penalty kick to the Fire after Mike Magee's free kick struck Jonathan Osorio's arm on a play in which the young midfielder had his arm tucked in and looked helpless to get out of the way.
“None of the players complained for a penalty,” Nelsen told MLSsoccer.com. “Even the Chicago coach [Frank Klopas] apologized after the game. It was something where you have to know the subtleties. It was a decision that didn’t need to be made.”
According to Nelsen, the contentious call which led to the penalty kick goal by Magee was ultimately a game changer that shifted the momentum of the match well in favor of Chicago.
“It changed the momentum of the game as the crowd got up for it then and it gave the Fire an extra spring in their steps,” Nelsen explained. “It was obviously extremely deflating for our players.”
Regardless of the final score line, the TFC gaffer was quick to state that he was generally happy with his team’s performance while playing against a much more experienced Chicago Fire side.
“It was a really good away performance,” Nelsen said. “These are high-pressure games away from home, with the crowd up for it and against teams that are playoff teams. One thing that gives us a lot of confidence is how we competed even with the injuries we have, and with us playing lot of young players against a team where even their bench has far more experience than our starters.
“We take a lot of confidence from that moving forward as a club.”
With New England, Chicago and Montreal all winning on Saturday, the Eastern Conference Playoff picture looks like it will remain extremely tight until the final weekend of the regular season, which will set up TFC’s final game of the 2013 campaign to be another intense and meaningful affair.
TFC face off next Saturday against the Montreal Impact in Toronto and Nelsen's side will have a chance to play spoiler against their Canadian rivals.
Given that proposition, Nelsen pragmatically admitted that maybe for once there was something of a silver lining with regards to the ongoing misfortune his team has endured with contentious calls going against them.
“Chicago winning does mean that next week will be a brilliant game for us to play in as well,” Nelsen said. “Something will be on the line and that is really good for our guys.”