By KEVIN KOCZWARA
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Matias Laba’s goal in the second minute was all the scoring Toronto FC would need in its 1-0 win over the New England Revolution, giving Toronto (4-10-8, 20 pts.) its first back-to-back wins of the season and extended its unbeaten streak to three games.
“That is seven points in three games,”said Toronto coach Ryan Nelsen after the game. “It is something that we are building on. We are always trying to get better and better each game.
“The guys showed today that sometimes when it is not going as well with the ball, you have our foundation to fall back on, our organization and our structure and working really hard for each other.”
Laba’s goal came after Revolution (8-8-6, 30 pts.) defender and captain Jose Goncalves tried to dribble out of the back and was dispossessed by Laba, leaving only Stephen McCarthy and goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth to beat, for Laba. The Argentinian midfielder dribbled around McCarthy and rounded Shuttleworth only to find his first effort on goal blocked by Scott Caldwell, but he followed up on his chance and put the rebound away.
“For me, it was a magical goal,” said Nelsen. “[It] had everything about it. He read the pass, the pressure, then the acceleration with the ball to burst in, the composure to beat the man, and then a finish that any striker would have been proud of and then he followed it in. So it was a magical goal.”
It was the second game in a row that New England gave up an early goal and had to try and fight back, which was something the Revolution were trying to avoid against a Toronto team that set-up to absorb pressure with plenty of men behind the ball.
“The goal just killed us, giving away an early goal. We’ve been talking about starts and how we need to improve them,” said Revs defender Chris Tierney after the game. “Same thing tonight, we just didn’t start well. Especially when we knew that they were going to try to nip one on the counter and sit in, which is exactly what they did. It’s their game plan to a tee.
“It’s just so disappointing to concede early and then we had plenty of chances to tie the game, especially in the first half, and we just couldn’t convert,” Tierney continued. “It’s just an extremely frustrating night all around.”
New England tried to battle back after giving up the early goal, but was unable to find a way past Toronto’s defense, even when clear chances presented themselves.
New England’s first attempt to try and level the score came the 13th minute when Dimitry Imbongo pulled back a cross from the touchline, finding Diego Fagundez free inside the penalty area for a clear chance on goal, but the 18-year-old was denied by Toronto defender Ashton Morgan, who cleared the shot off the goal line. It wouldn’t be the last time the Revolution forward would find a Toronto defender on the goal line.
Lee Nguyen had a chance stopped in the 17th minute when his half-volley from just outside the penalty area was parried away by Toronto goalkeeper Joe Bendik.
Bendik was helped agin in the 34th minute by his defense when a bicycle-kick cross by Andrew Farrell and a header by Imbongo in the box fell to the Fagundez inside the penalty area, but the Revolution forward would again have his shot cleared off the line by a Toronto defender, this time Richard Eckersley.
“We gave them a gift in the first two minutes and it’s always tough to climb back like that. We fought hard, tried to put ourselves in a position to tie in the first half and try to get a goal. It just wasn’t our day today,” said New England midfielder Lee Nguyen.
New England would go into half and dominate possession in the second half, but unable to find a clear chance to level the score until Fagundez would see another chance thwarted, this time by Bendik.
The 18-year old was sprung by Chris Tierney, who intercepted a Toronto pass at midfield, but Fagundez would be denied by Bendik this time as the goalkeeper came out and cut down the angle well.
New England had one final chance in the dying moments of stoppage time when Nguyen’s free-kick drifted to the backpost, where Fagundez was waiting, but it wasn’t meant to be for the forward as his chance sailed high and wide of the Toronto goal.
For Bednik, the result was never in doubt. The Toronto goalkeeper felt as though it was Toronto’s night and that the team wasn’t going to break and allow New England to level the score.
“I think it was always our game,” said Bednik. “I think we could have played another 30 minutes and [the Revolution] wouldn’t have scored. It was just that kind of day.”
The loss snapped a two-game winning-streak for New England, which travels to Kansas City next week. For Toronto, the win was its fourth of the season, and the clean sheet was only the Reds’ second of the year.