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Wileman: Nelsen getting good results despite some ugly play

Luke Wileman, TSN.ca
4/8/2013 11:21:11 AM
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It wasn't pretty, but Toronto FC maintained their unbeaten home record this season after a dramatic finish at BMO Field on Saturday. Darel Russell's late wonder-strike gave the Reds a point they hardly deserved, but the way they fought back to tie 2-2 with FC Dallas is further evidence of the new-found resilience within the squad.

For much of the match they were second best against a strong FC Dallas side that looked comfortable in possession and saw their goalkeeper Raul Fernandez rarely tested. However, once Justin Braun got an unlikely goal to give Toronto hope with five minutes remaining, the home team finally sprung to life and caused the Dallas defence some problems.

After scoring the goal, Toronto should have had a penalty when Darren O'Dea was clearly pulled down in the penalty area. In the end, they managed to get the breakthrough as Russell fired home from long distance. It was a great moment for the defender who a week earlier had been at fault for a mistake that led to the Galaxy's game-tying goal in stoppage time at the end of the match.

The late comeback shouldn't mask the team's poor performance.

Head Coach Ryan Nelsen said before the season began that he expected there would be “some ugly moments” along the way as he tried to build his team and for much of the time, Saturday was one of those days.

Nelsen said post-game he was frustrated that it took adversity to draw out the character from his team. He acknowledged there is plenty of room for improvement, but the one thing his players can't be questioned on is their desire to fight to the end. On Saturday they got a point out of nothing, where a year ago they would have likely lost that match by three or four goals.

There is only so much Nelsen can do with the squad he currently has at his disposal but reinforcements are on the way.

After much anticipation, 22-year-old Argentine striker Maximiliano Urrutti should finally be confirmed as a Toronto FC player this week, on loan from Newell's Old Boys with an option for the club to sign him permanently should he prove to be a success in Major League Soccer. Urrutti's arrival will give the club a much needed second option in attack alongside Robert Earnshaw and when the Argentine is ready to start it will also allow Nelsen to switch to his preferred 4-4-2 formation.

Urrutti isn't the only Argentine coming in. The club is also signing a 21-year-old box-to-box midfielder who has represented his country at the youth level. He could be announced this week, but likely won't be available to play for the Reds before the end of the month.

Attacking options and the central midfield area have always been two positions that needed most attention for Nelsen's squad. That need in central midfield however is even more pressing in light of the injury to Terry Dunfield which could see the midfielder sidelined until the summer. The club won't know the full extent of Dunfield's knee injury picked up in training last week until the swelling goes down, but I understand he will at least be out until the middle of May.

On the subject of injured players, Danny Koevermans looks to be progressing really well in his recovery. The veteran Dutch forward hasn't played since last July when he suffered a season-ending ACL injury in the 1-0 win at New England Revolution.

A few hours ahead of kickoff at BMO Field on Saturday, Koevermans was training on the pitch and he looked in good shape. June is still the expected target date for him to be ready for action, but if he continues his positive progress, there's a chance he could join in with training with the first-team by the middle of May. With the severity of the injury suffered by Koevermans there are no guarantees, but if he can come back anywhere near the player that was so prolific in the few weeks before his injury, then it will be a massive addition for Nelsen's squad.

Luke Wileman

Luke Wileman


Luke Wileman is an analyst for TSN's soccer coverage and his blog can be read on TSN.ca.

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