Despite missing some key players — including their leading scorer — the Toronto FC persevered to post a 1-0 home win Saturday against the New England Revolution and avenge an embarrassing 4-1 loss at the hands of the same club last month.
Chad Barrett's header in the 53rd minute off a Sam Cronin corner kick was the game winner and kept the TFC (4-4-1) unbeaten at home this season as well as distance between themselves and the 5th-place Revolution (2-6-2).
"It was not the prettiest game you will ever see in your life," said Toronto coach Preki.
"We're confident in our system, we're confident in the way we want to play," he added. "Sometimes it's not really pretty. But I'd rather win ugly than lose pretty, to be honest."
It was also the second-straight league game without a goal for the offensively-challenged Revolution, who saw their winless streak lengthened to 0-5-2 since a 4-1 win over Toronto on April 10.
The task was supposed to be easier for New England as the TFC was without the services of the club's scoring leader Dwayne De Rosario and Julian de Guzman (hamstring), who were both supposed to be in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to play with Canada's national soccer team. The injury forced de Guzman to miss both matches.
The bare-bones lineup was also without suspended defender Maksim Usanov, and on game day that list grew to four as defender Nana Attakora was also out with a sore hip flexor.
With club scoring leader De Rosario missing (six goals, three assists in eight games) all eyes were on Barrett to pick up the offensive slack and he did not disappoint.
Barrett did his best to make up for the missing Reds in the very first minute — heading clear in on goal after pulling behind New England's Cory Gibbs. Barrett couldn't capitalize on the breakaway — the ball wouldn't settle on the slick and somewhat patchy pitch while Revs' keeper Preston Burpo came out to challenge and deflected the shot away.
"Quite a few people have been really hard on Chad, but I think Chad has a lot of potential. It's up to him how far he wants to go," Preki said.
Barrett recorded three shots through the first half that saw the two teams trade chances but featured no goals.
Frei keeps his club vital
The Revolution came up empty on all three corner chances in the first half, but their best opportunity came during a scramble in the eighth minute near the TFC goal.
A poor header by Toronto defender Raivis Hscanovics ended up between the legs of his goalkeeper and New England's Sainey Nyassi came ever-so-close to knocking the ball in on the goal-line but Stefan Frei deftly knocked the ball out of play.
Frei came up big for his club again in the 12th minute — as the Revs' Marko Perovic delivered a ball from the wing to Kheli Dube's outstretched leg, but Frei was in position to deflect the chance away off his face to keep the game scoreless.
The 15th minute saw Barrett's second great chance of the game — Jacob Peterson sent the ball across but Barrett couldn't bury the shot, deflecting high over the goal. The two players hooked up several times through the game, another chance for Barrett in the 23rd minute.
The game had its share of physical play — Toronto's Martin Saric and New England's Shalrie Joseph were both shown the yellow card after reckless tackles while Barrett took a hand in the face from Pat Phelan in the 27th minute, but there was no call.
Amadou Sanyang drew a free kick for the TFC in the 37th minute but Cronin's chip into the 18-yard box bounced harmlessly into the hands of Burpo for the save.
Barrett continued to keep the pressure on in the second half — after being pulled down in the penalty area in the 48th minute.
But it was his team's first corner kick of the game that supplied the game's opening goal. Barrett headed in Cronin's kick to take the 1-0 lead in the 53rd minute.
Barrett a force for the Reds
Barrett was shown a yellow card soon after, when his 58th-minute tackle on Joseph Niouky was ruled reckless, but the TFC scorer would stay in the game for another chance in the 71st minute. O'Brian White — who started in the second half in the place of Fuad Ibrahim — put the ball through to Barrett but he chipped it over the crossbar.
After a scramble in front of the TFC goal in the 71st minute, a counterattack set up by Barrett nearly made it 2-0 for the Reds. Barrett carried the ball to midfield before getting it wide to Peterson, who in turn sent it over to White — but had the ball squirt through his legs in the box.
Joseph had the Revolution's last best chances — the first off a header from the spot in the 81st minute that glanced wide-left, and in the fourth minute of injury time, with his header once again going wide.