It has taken almost five months, but Toronto FC have finally turned up.
They recorded back to back wins for the first-time since July 14, 2012 this weekend with a 1-0 win over New England building on last weekends 2-1 victory over Columbus.
That’s right, it has been almost a year since Toronto had consecutive wins in league play. That’s how bad its been.
You have to respect TFC’s fans for keeping the faith after what has been a mostly torrid 12 months. But now Ryan Nelsen’s new look side may have turned the corner. Just maybe.
Toronto won three on the spin last July, before their terrible slump continued for the rest of the 2012 season. That was a brief mirage in a desert of discontent for Toronto’s fans.
However this time, things are different.
Bringing in Nelsen as a rookie manager so close to the start of the season, Toronto were always going to struggle in the first half of the 2013 campaign. Perhaps they’ve done worse than many thought, but Nelsen’s side are getting their act together. Fast.
Personally I expected them to be a hard team to beat this season. And for the most part that’s been true. Look at how many games they’ve either lost or drawn after giving up last minute goals. They were close to winning plenty of games — I don’t need to remind TFC fans that — because the fighting spirit is there, just not the luck. But Nelsen’s a fighter and his team now mirrors his staunch defensive attitude.
In 20 games Toronto has only allowed more than two goals on two occasions, and that was in back-to-back matches in July when a 3-3 tie with Montreal was followed by a 3-0 spanking by Sporting KC. They have the ninth best defense in MLS and have conceded 29 goals so far.
One of the main reasons for the mini revival: that nasty streak is back. Matias Laba, whose first goal since joining TFC was the game-winner on Sunday vs. New England, has made a huge difference in midfield. His bite in the tackle and range of passing is exactly what Nelsen needed. And the old head of Steven Caldwell in central defense has proved a masterful addition, which has brought out the best in the clubs young defenders who lineup next to the 32-year-old Scotsman.
I expected Toronto to be a hard-nosed defensive team, that doesn’t give up many goals and doesn’t thrill the neutral. Ryan Nelsen’s men are delivering that, finally. And now that they seem to have their house in order, can they possibly sneak into the playoff spots in the East? They’re 13 points off fifth-placed Houston. That’s a huge ask. But with this new-found mettle and habit of not losing games or giving up goals, Toronto will certainly be a much different team in the second half of the season.
The Toronto team I expected has finally arrived. Welcome.