TFC fights to goalless draw in Houston

Second-half substitute Danny Koevermans brought TFC's bench to its feet with minutes remaining when...

Second-half substitute Danny Koevermans brought TFC's bench to its feet with minutes remaining when an inviting rebound set up perfectly for the Dutchman. (QMI Agency file photo)

KURTIS LARSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:28 AM ET

Toronto FC’s first clean sheet of the season came in the least likely scenario.

In its most complete game under head coach Ryan Nelsen to date, TFC earned a hard-fought goalless draw in the Houston heat Saturday night, spurred on by a mammoth defensive performance from Stevie Caldwell and Co.

Questions remained following TFC’s stress-filled win last weekend at D.C. United.

Could TFC put in back-to-back defensive efforts?

Most importantly, could Toronto once again get through the final 10 minutes of a game without conceding late and crushing what little hope it offered fans last week?

“No teams have run over the top of us in any game,” Nelsen said of previous late collapses. “But, you’re right, those performances have to be turned into (points).

“It’s good that belief and performances are turning into points.”

Second-half substitute Danny Koevermans brought TFC’s bench to its feet with minutes remaining when an inviting rebound set up perfectly for the Dutchman.

In the 85th minute, a low drive from Jeremy Brockie was pushed aside by Houston keeper Tally Hall with Koevermans crashing. But a poor angle saw Koevermans put TFC’s second-chance effort right at Hall to see the two sides exit with a point for the second time in two meetings this season.

“There are going to be times when there’s heartbreak on the way,” Nelsen said, cutting expectations down to size. “We’ll keep moving forward. We have a goal and we have a plan and we’ll keep inching our way towards it.”

Toronto survived a late onslaught with 10 minutes remaining, indicating a drastic improvement over performances early in the season that saw the Reds drop points late in games on numerous occasions.

A quick restart from Cam Weaver in 79th minute put Houston’s Will Bruin in on goal before the second-year pro put his attempt into Joe Bendik’s arms.

Four minutes later, the Reds survived a series of balls played into the box, with Caldwell, Darren O’Dea and Doneil Henry standing tall in front of goal.

The Reds traded chances with Houston through the first hour, with Robert Earnshaw coming closest for TFC on a number of occasions.

In the 17th minute, after Henry headed a corner back across goal, Earnshaw couldn’t react in time as the ball bounced in front of him a metre from goal.

Four minutes later, Earnshaw missed a sliding attempt after Bobby Convey laced a low cross just out of his reach.

“I said to you (reporters) when that was going on that you wouldn’t be asking these questions (much longer),” Nelsen confidently said of late-game collapses.

Houston then failed to take their best chance of the game in the 26th minute when a well-orchestrated buildup led to a cross from Corey Ashe that Bruin couldn’t rise high enough to head down on goal.

Caldwell nearly topped off his man of the match performance shortly after halftime when Hall failed to punch clear, instead re-directing the ball to TFC’s man mountain at the back post.

Caldwell, for all his composure at the opposite end, failed to hit the target from inside the six, his only mistake on an otherwise solid defensive effort from the Reds.


Photos