Toronto FC pulled out the post-match superlatives Sunday but the New England Revolution left town with the points.
Lee Nguyen set up two goals and Diego Fagundez scored for the third straight game as the surging Revolution defeated Toronto 3-1 to extend its winning streak to five games.
Toronto dominated possession, had a bushel of scoring chances and outshot New England 21-7 although the shots on target were only 5-3 for the home side. Nine of Toronto’s shots were off target while another seven were blocked.
New England (12-9-7) only managed one shot on net in the first half — Fagundez’ 39th-minute goal — but went to the break leading 2-0, thanks to Toronto defender Damien Perquis’ fourth-minute own goal.
Toronto coach Greg Vanney called Toronto’s response at the start of the second half “maybe the best soccer we’ve played this whole year.”
Robbie Findley scored for Toronto in the 55th minute, ending New England’s 340-minute shutout streak.
“We were coming,” said Vanney. “I think there was another goal in it.”
Unfortunately not for his team.
A Kelyn Rowe goal in the 71st minute was the backbreaker, making it 3-1. It came off a Michael Bradley turnover in the penalty box, with Nguyen pilfering the ball off the Toronto captain to feed Rowe. Nguyen now has five assists in his last two matches and is tied for fifth in the league with 10.
Bottom line, Toronto (11-12-4) shot itself on the foot on the first and third goals. And it misfired repeatedly at the other end.
Vanney put on his rose-coloured glasses for his post-match meeting with the media.
“Taking away the glaring mistakes that cost us goals, we dominated the match,” he said.
“We don’t give away an own goal and we don’t give away the ball at the top of the box (for the third goal) and we finish two other or one other of our 21 chances and we’re having a completely different discussion and everyone’s probably saying that was the best game that TFC’s played all year,” he added. “That’s my opinion.”
Given that statement, Vanney may have ridden a unicorn home.
Asked whether the game, despite all the superlatives, was a lost opportunity, he returned to Planet Earth.
“Yes. Absolutely. No question.”
Fourth-place New England goes home with a six-point bulge over fifth-place Toronto. Come the playoffs, the fourth-place team will host the fifth-place side so TFC has work to do if it wants to avoid having its first-ever post-season match on the road.
It was a wild and woolly, fast-paced game that was made all the more entertaining by moments of clown-like defending at both ends of the pitch.
New England’s winning streak started with a 3-1 victory over Toronto at Gillette Stadium on Aug. 1 followed by shutouts over Houston, Philadelphia and Orlando.
New England has outscored its opposition (12-2) during those five victories. The win also extended its unbeaten run to seven games (6-0-1).
“It wasn’t our best game by any stretch but we really worked hard. The guys fought like heck,” said Revs coach Jay Heaps.
Toronto had plenty of scoring chances but could not pull even, despite some eye-popping plays from Italian star Sebastian Giovinco, including a first-half spinning backheel nutmeg that had the crowd on its feet.
Giovinco was hacked down on several occasions when New England players ran out of ways to contain him before a crowd of 20,257 on a damp, grey day at BMO Field.
The last time Toronto defeated New England at BMO Field was in May 2010. The Revs are 3-0-3 in Toronto since that loss.
Giovinco was one of five TFC starters back to reinforce the undermanned side that lost 2-1 last weekend in Seattle.
Perquis had a rough return from injury, with Vanney admitting the Polish international may have had a hard time shaking off the rust after a five-game absence.
Toronto played in a 3-4-3 formation that morphed into a back five when New England had the ball.
Toronto visits New York City FC on Wednesday before hosting the Colorado Rapids on Saturday. Vanney will have Collen Warner (suspension) back along with fellow midfielder Benoit Cheyrou (ankle) in all likelihood next time out.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press