Nelsen starting to find his feet at Toronto FC

TONY SMITH
Last updated 05:00 26/06/2013
Ryan Nelsen
Getty Images
IMPROVING: Ryan Nelsen hasn't had the most successful debut season as a coach, but his Toronto FC side are on the up.

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Former All Whites captain Ryan Nelsen's challenging first season as a professional football manager has just got a little brighter.

June has been a better month for Nelsen's Major League Soccer club Toronto FC which is now on a three-match unbeaten run after a scoreless draw last weekend at the Houston Dynamo's home ground in Texas.

Toronto are still ninth in the 10-team eastern conference but have drawn 1-1 with the Philadelphia Union this month and then beat bottom team DC United 2-1 to snap an 11-game winless streak. It was Toronto's first victory since a 2-1 win over Sporting Kansas City in round two on March 9.

It's been a baptism of fire for Nelsen in the coaching dugout with Toronto tallying 12 points from their first 15 games with a two-win, six-draw, seven-loss record. Six of the seven defeats have been by single-goal margins.

The Houston stalemate was Toronto's first clean sheet since last October and Nelsen now believes the Reds can approach with some confidence their next two home games, against western conference leaders Real Salt Lake and the Montreal Impact.

"We have been very close [to keeping a clean sheet] six or seven times and conceded late," Nelsen told reporters after the Houston match.

"I think we have been putting in pretty good defensive performances and nobody has really run over the top of us in any game. However those performances have to result in points and we have to turn them into product.

"I think the guys can really grow from this result. They have always had belief, but it is good that their belief and their performances are now turning into points."

Nelsen credited former Scottish international centreback Steven Caldwell - on loan from English second-tier club Birmingham City - for providing experience, stability and leadership at the back.

All Whites Jeremy Brockie came off the Toronto bench for a 31-minute cameo and fired a long-range shot which drew a fine save from Houston's Tally Hall.

Brockie, who is on a short-season loan from the Wellington Phoenix, has made one start and four substitute appearances for Toronto.

The 25-year-old said he was enjoying his MLS experience and his impact player role but it would be "much better if I could come on and hit the back of the net and help get some more points from the team"

Brockie said he was learning a lot playing with Toronto's former Dutch international striker Danny Koevermans and Robbie Earnshaw, who has played for Cardiff City, West Bromwich Albion and Wales.

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