By MICHAEL KLINE
Toronto FC opened their home campaign in style, jumping all over Sporting Kansas City early on and holding on for an impressive 2-1 victory at BMO Field on Saturday.
Ryan Nelsen’s second match in charge of Toronto FC saw the Canadian soccer club record their first MLS win since July 18th of 2012, a span of almost eight months and 15 matches.
Newly-acquired forward Robert Earnshaw led the way, scoring both goals to lift TFC to the home victory. Impressive performances from several TFC starters, including from John Bostock, Reggie Lambe and Jeremy Hall helped provide the difference for the home team against Kansas City.
“We’re still a long way away from where we want to be,” TFC head coach Ryan Nelsen said. “More importantly it was a step forward. I think there was improvement in Vancouver, there is improvement today and we got to take baby step to become a very good team.”
It was all about the first half, with Sporting KC once again coming out flat and uninterested, much like their opener last week against the Philadelphia Union.
Sporting made another late second-half push, but Toronto was able to do what Philadelphia couldn’t last week, and achieved a much-deserved victory.
Earnshaw opened his Toronto FC scoring campaign in the second minute against Sporting Kansas City, when the Welsh striker pounced on a lazy pass from defender Matt Besler, and clinically one-timed his shot past Jimmy Nielsen.
Toronto was up early, and, for the second match in a row, Sporting looked completely out of rhythm. Despite dominating possession, Kansas City failed to move the ball forward, allowing Toronto FC to shrink the midfield and limit space for Sporting’s key playmakers.
Just fifteen minutes after the first goal, Toronto doubled their lead when Earnshaw registered his second goal of the match, this one coming from the penalty spot. Recently acquired loanee John Bostock won the penalty following a dazzling run through Sporting’s box. Earnshaw sent Jimmy Nielsen the wrong way, and calmly collected his second goal of the match.
Sporting were down two goals and were struggling to get a foot in the game. Toronto were winning all of the 50-50 challenges, pressing the ball effectively, and giving Kansas City little room to move the ball forward. The first half concluded with Sporting having zero shots on target.
“I thought Toronto came out flying,” Sporting KC head coach Peter Vermes said of TFC. “It was their home opener, the crowd was good for them. They pushed the game and they made the most of their opportunities. We made a big mistake early on to get them into the game that gave them some confidence.”
Vermes decided to make a change at half, substituting C.J. Sapong on for Bobby Convey.
Sporting came out much more lively in the second half, but wasted possession was still the extent of their contribution to the match. Kansas City was working far too hard on the ball, with very little reward.
Defensive organization was the name of the game for Toronto, who were more than content to let Sporting have the majority of the ball. Richard Eckersley played particularly well in defense for Toronto, winning the majority of his battles with Graham Zusi, limiting the American’s contributions to set piece deliveries.
Sporting came close to cutting Toronto’s lead in the 61st minute, however, when Sapong’s header clanged off of the post following a corner kick from Zusi. Kansas City were relentlessly attacking the goal at this point, with their efforts paying off 15 minutes later.
Claudio Bieler finally stamped his mark on the match in the 76th minute when he rifled home a volley from close range following a Sapong flick-on from a Jimmy Nielsen long-ball. Toronto were caught off guard when Jimmy Nielsen quickly restarted play after Danny Califf received a yellow card. The defender wasn’t able to get back into position in time, and Bieler sliced Toronto’s lead with seemingly his first touch of the match.
It was too little too late for Kansas City, however, as a lethargic first half proved too much to overcome. Toronto deserved the three points, thoroughly out-playing Kansas City for the majority of the match.
Here are the match highlights:
What do you think of Toronto’s 2-1 win over Sporting Kansas City? Who impressed/disappointed you? Think Ryan Nelsen will be able to build on this result and exceed expectations this season? Starting to wonder if Sporting KC is in for a long season?
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