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article imageNarrow-minded TFC suffer third consecutive loss to Revolution Special

By Tyrrell Meertins     May 4, 2014 in Sports
Following a disappointing run of defeats against FC Dallas and Colorado Rapids, Ryan Nelsen adopted a narrow approach against Jay Heaps’ New England Revolution.
Nelsen had a healthy squad at his disposal with the return of Jermain Defoe and Doneil Henry, and both were included in the starting XI with Jonathan Osorio playing as a left-sided attacker.
The odd feat about the match was that no side effectively dominated the match. Yet, TFC easily dictated the tempo during the opening period. Nelsen’s men casually bypassed New England’s midfield and created chances to win the match in the opening half. Heaps’ side, however, had no solution on how to negate TFC’s threat or create their own chances.
TFC took the lead in the opening five minutes when Jackson’s audacious shot from approximately 30 yards out deflected off A.J. Soares and rolled past Revolution goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth. It was a dream start for the Reds –– albeit a fortuitous goal –– but Nelsen’s men failed to extend their lead. Gilberto’s goal drought continued Saturday afternoon as the Brazilian aimed to score his first goal for the Toronto club.
In the span of 30 minutes, the 24-year-old striker squandered three golden opportunities to kill the game. First, Gilberto latched onto a loose ball in the box, but the Brazilian slid his shot wide of the net. Subsequently, Michael Bradley’s deft chip placed the Brazilian free on goal, but his heavy first touch directed the ball into Shuttleworth’s hands. Finally, Mark Blooms cross at the edge of the box to Osorio saw the young Canadian flick a clever ball into the box for Gilberto, but the Brazilian dragged his shot inches wide of the net.
One of the benefits to Nelsen’s approach involved his wide players drifting into central positions, which gifted the deepest midfielders additional passing options to break into the final third. Osorio, in particular, enjoyed another exceptional all-around performance. The 21-year-old drifted into pockets of space between the lines from the left flank to receive the ball, cleverly linked play with Justin Morrow in advanced positions, and displayed his determination to work for the team when he tracked Teal Burnbury’s run on the break and completed two magnificent tackles to break up play. But although Nelsen’s men found gaps in midfield to exploit, there attacks became predictable as the match wore on, and they lacked substantial production from the full-backs.
“It’s a matter of not digging deep, and not doing our job. We’re supposed to win this game; there are no excuses for missing chances. We should have won today and we didn’t,” Osorio said.
Still, while TFC dominated possession and created more clear-cut chances, this wasn’t a performance to remember. The Gilberto-Defoe partnership has yet to develop into the strike force that many expect it too, and the duo’s decision to make identical runs when Bradley ignited a 3v2 break in the second half signified that they’re not fully on the same page; likewise, they squandered five legitimate opportunities.
Jackson’s work-rate outweigh his habit of constantly conceding possession in final third, whereas Kyle Bekker failed to influence the match from a deep-lying position. In fairness the duo of Lee Nguyen and Daigo Kobayashi kept Bradley and Bekker quiet, and were equally impressive when they surged into midfield to link play and place their teammates in key areas in the final third. The former completed four tackles, while deep-lyer Andy Dorman recorded seven tackles and four interceptions, as New England’s midfield improved following a slow start.
“It’s really difficult when you start slow, and they capitalized on that scoring early. The first half was very open, it could have been 2-2 and I thought that the team fought hard and found a way to win as we didn’t play our best so that is always nice,” Heaps said.
Ultimately, Henry’s two errors gifted New England three points. A misplaced pass to Kobayashi allowed the midfield to play in rookie Patrick Mullins who fired an unstoppable shot past Julio Cesar. In the latter stages of the second half –– following a corner kick that was oddly ordered to be retaken –– Mullins’ shot from the edge of the box deflected off Henry’s hands and New England was awarded a penalty that Nguyen slotted past Cesar. Nelsen immediately disagreed when asked whether Henry had a poor afternoon.
“No that’s wrong. That’s completely wrong. He [Doneil Henry] was trying to be positive, he made a pass and the shot could’ve went anywhere, but it went in the net,” Nelsen said.
Nelsen attempted to stretch the game in the second half with the introduction of Alvaro Rey and Issey Nakajima-Farran, but this decreased Osorio’s influence on the match, as he was now the deepest midfielder, while neither substitutes had an impact on the match. Gilberto’s header off the post and Defoe’s missed effort inside the box in the final minutes summed up TFC’s afternoon.
“We have to learn how to win at BMO Field. It seems like if we concede at home, it’s the worst thing that ever happened. We need to get a bit more confidence at home. The guys did great, they pushed on to the end and we easily could have won the game if some of the chances went in,” Nelsen said.
While poor finishing and Henry’s mistakes will dominate headlines, Nelsen’s system was too narrow, as it left the strikers isolated for lengthy periods, and ultimately the service from wide areas was putrid. In the second half, Heaps adjusted to Nelsen’s narrow shape, and they comfortably negated their threat in the final third.
Apart from personnel changes, Nelsen’s reluctance to stray away from his initial approach and his inability to adapt to New England’s modifications was mystifying as TFC suffered their third consecutive loss.
More about Tfc, Toronto FC, new england revolution, doneil henry, Jemain Defoew
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