Toronto FC

Reds clinch much needed victory against New England Revolution: "It felt good to win at home”

2024-04-20-TORvsNER-Kschischang-0162 (edited)

Toronto FC returned to winning ways on Saturday night at BMO Field, defeating the New England Revolution 1-0.

Prince Owusu continued his hot streak, redirecting a headed Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty ball with a vaulted click of his heels to score the only goal of the game in the 66th minute.

A beautiful goal, a worthy game-winner; even if the rest of the game was no masterpiece with both teams scrapping and clawing for the result.

“We needed three points and how we got them wouldn’t really matter tonight,” said John Herdman post-match.

“This week was ‘Back to Basics’ to try and push a clean-sheet.”

“The important thing was, collectively, they managed the game,” he continued. “Against Charlotte we didn't manage the game well enough. We knew at home the crowd would be behind us, so that energy would always be there and then you’ve got to tip your hat to Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty. He's had a big impact coming off the bench, making big chances for players.”

“And Prince doing what he's been doing – on a bit of a hot streak,” Herdman added. “Proud of the effort tonight, proud of the way they managed the game, just made sure that we were hard to beat. That was a big starting point, but, yeah, happy to get three points.”

Said Marshall-Rutty: “It felt good to win at home.”

“That's something that we work towards the whole week. We knew we owed it to ourselves and to the fans to win at home coming off a couple of losses,” he continued.

“In the changing room the vibes were good. We know that we're back on track.”

Asked what went through his mind on the finish, Owusu was Teutonic: “Nothing.”

“It was a striker instinct,” he elaborated. “I have to say, I scored an even more beautiful goal in training. The guys already said, ‘You did it [in] training,’ so now I did this in the game.”

“I'm really happy,” Owusu allowed. “Of course, the three points are the most important thing.”

With four goals in his last five appearances from the German forward, Herdman may just have found his starting centrepiece.

“He's shown a level of leadership across the last three, four weeks,” highlighted the coach. “He's had to deal with the disappointment of not starting and he's had to manage a group that's been struggling. During the week he's shown a real level of experience, professionalism. He's been one of the standout people in the locker room.”

Having arrived toward the end of last season, Owusu credited “the connection” for his recent form.

“The connection between my teammates and the timing was also important,” he explained. “I have now a better feeling of the timing. Before I was also in these positions, but too early or too late. As a striker, you have to be calm. You have to trust in your abilities and your talent because when you're not calm or don’t have a cold mind, then you will never score.”

“If you miss one opportunity then you think too much about this opportunity you didn't make, you will miss the next one and the next one and the next one,” Owusu added. “In the first half I had one chance and I said, ‘Okay, the next one, I will do it.’ This is how it comes.”

As Marshall-Rutty explained: “In football, anything happens.”

But it doesn’t just happen by accident. The game is the final product, but the training ground is the laboratory, the cooking that makes it possible.

“When the ball came across [Ryan Spaulding] mishit it,” recounted the teenager. “Something I've been working on with the assistant coaches, Alex [Dodgshon] and them, is my heading. I had a chance last week and I hit it over the bar.”

“So as a young player, just going into training and trying to work on things that I can improve on,” Marshall-Rutty continued. “Luckily, I headed into a good area and Prince with an amazing finish. It's funny. When we do finishing drills in training, Prince scores like that quite a few times. It was bound to happen.”

It was his introduction that added the spark that TFC needed.

“He brings that attacking edge,” honed Herdman. “First half we struggled with the way we were pressing New England, but we changed that at halftime, got some clarity with the group which allowed Jahkeele to be more aggressive.”

“It really stifled them. He was able to bring a new level of energy and pressure,” he continued. “With his unique fitness base, he can go both ways. That's the exciting thing with Jahkeele. He can bring an intensity defensively and then when the game shifts, he can go the other way and still put the full-back on his heels. There was a real energy from Jahkeele tonight and a desire to want to make a difference for the club.”

Eight minutes after Owusu’s strike Marshall-Rutty combined deftly with Federico Bernardeschi up the right that resulted in a Toronto penalty kick.

Bernardeschi’s attempt was saved by Henrich Ravas, denying him his first goal of the season.

Herdman is not concerned. In every metric but that one, the Italian has been a leader.

“It's going to turn,” he said.

“It's just the way the world is: if you keep putting that effort in, you keep putting the work in, it will turn for you.”

“He's done everything again tonight, everything we asked,” Herdman continued. “It's time. You know a player of that quality, he's going to find the back of net. We're gutted for him. We're all gutted for him. I didn't celebrate as much as I wanted to tonight because we never seen Fede score. Everyone wants to see him score because he's been that honest with his performances. It's been brilliant.”

After straying away from that dogged quality that served them so well through the opening three matches, TFC collected their first clean-sheet since the March 23 win over Atlanta United.

Sean Johnson was called upon to make his fair share of saves. Sigured Rosted threw his body in front of a ball for a crucial block, Nicksoen Gomis did too with his double intervention late.

“We wanted to be a hard team to play against,” underlined Marshall-Rutty. “In the first few games of the season, we kept a lot of clean-sheets, teams were frustrated with us. We wanted to come back to that identity and we did a pretty good job today.”

“That's the team we want to be,” he continued. “With the quality in our team – Fede, Lorenzo [Insigne] when he comes back, Richie [Laryea] when he comes back, Oso [Jonathan Osorio] – we know that can win us the game, so just trying to be a tight team and not giveaway goals. We know we will score on the other side. Back to Basics.”

A team meeting earlier in the week emphasized that point after the third-straight defeat.

“It was tough,” said Owusu. “It was some games we didn't deserve to lose. We had a big meeting this week, we spoke about everything.”

“[The coach] said ‘We have to go Back to Basics’ and this is what we did today,” he continued.

“We are very happy it worked; we have to keep going. It was one step. We know what we want to achieve this season; it's a long way.”

Herdman spelled it out more forcefully himself: “It was three points or bust today.”

“We had to come out with three points. It was critical to just turn that wheel towards a positive trajectory in the league and get closer to that top four,” he continued. “That's what we've said: over these next three games at home, we have to take the full points out.”

“One point won't be enough if we want to stay right in the fight for when we're able to bring the likes of Lorenzo and Richie back into the lineup, Shane O'Neill, [Alonso] Coello as well,” Herdman added. “When you strengthen the squad, we want to be as close to that top four as we can.”

The coach didn’t see just relief in his players eyes after the final whistle. He saw something else as well.

“That solidarity,” he pinpointed. “Relief will come through without a doubt, but there's an element of frustration, as well. We want to play better than that – I don't think we can hide from the fact that it wasn't, the first half certainly, a performance to be remembered from TFC.”

Toronto hits the road on Saturday for the next league fixture before returning home for a pair of games at BMO Field against FC Dallas on May 4 and NYCFC on May 11, rounding out the three games of which Herdman spoke.

Before then the quest to lift the Voyageurs Cup for the first time since 2020 (technically, 2022) begins.

Toronto refuse to overlook their Barrie, Ontario-based opposition.

“I'll be back in the office, 10, 11 o'clock tomorrow morning to turn around the tactical blueprint and the players will be back in on Monday to start the walkthroughs,” laid out Herdman. “They’ll sense that this is a very important game for our club and one that we won't be taking lightly.”

There is silverware on the line.

“We're excited,” said Marshall-Rutty. “That's another trophy we can win and our goal this year is to win as many trophies as we can.”

“We'll take it serious. We know Simcoe is a League1 team, but we don't look at them like that. It's just another game and we're there to win,” he continued. “Take care of business at home again, in front of our fans. We'll do that on Wednesday.”

Added Owusu: “We play the cup to win it.”

“We know we are the better team and we have to show it,” he closed. “Of course we have respect for every opponent, but we know if we do our job, it's just one team who will win this game.”