Javier Perez is hoping to see an improved Toronto FC against the New England Revolution on Saturday, believing his club has been “tense” during his time as interim head coach.
The interim tag was removed from Perez’s title this week as he was handed the Reds’ top job until the end of the season. Toronto remains rooted to the bottom of the Eastern Conference but lost only one of seven games under Perez. There have been four draws and just two wins, but the coach expects the news to have given the squad a lift.
“It’s not about me, it’s about the team,” Perez said. “I think it gives a little bit more stability to the team, if anything. I know that we have to go out there and still get the three points. But the team was very tense every time that we were going out on the field.
“I think it’s very difficult to improve performance if you play tense. You have to still be in athletic focus but at the same time you need some kind of calmness to play. And I think the team felt that kind of pressure, that if we lose the next game there’s going to be another change – what does that mean for the team, what does that mean for us? So right now we have the backing of management, now it’s official. And everybody can feel comfortable – as comfortable as we can be in the position where we are.”
New England is 10 points clear at the top of the table, but lost at home to Toronto in July and knows it cannot afford complacency.
“They’re a quality team, they have quality, quality players,” midfielder Tommy McNamara said. “Some of them have been injured and are getting back healthy now. They’re at home, so we’re expecting a lot of energy with their crowd. They’re out of the playoff picture now, I believe, so they’re going to be very desperate to win games at home.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Toronto FC – Alejandro Pozuelo
Pozuelo has been far less impressive this season, with only four goal involvements. But one of those was an assist in the previous game against the Revs, while he created another goal and added his only strike of the campaign last time out against New York City FC. The midfielder now needs an extended run of form.
New England Revolution – Gustavo Bou
An outstanding season for Bou shows no signs of slowing, with his winner against the Philadelphia Union last week a 14th involvement in 17 games this year. He neither scored nor assisted against Toronto, though, despite attempting six shots, and will be looking to make amends.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Toronto FC is unbeaten in six straight matches against the Revs (W4 D2), the club’s longest unbeaten run against New England in MLS. Toronto has won each of its past four home matches against the Revs, outscoring them 13-4 in those matches.
– Toronto came from two goals down to draw 2-2 with NYCFC on Saturday. It was the first time Toronto has collected a point in a match it was behind by at least two goals since a 4-4 draw with DC United in June 2018.
– New England’s 2-1 win over Philadelphia on Sunday took the Revolution to 40 points on the season after just 19 games. Only four teams in MLS history have had more than 40 points at this stage of a season: LA Galaxy (46) in 1998, DC United (44) in 2006, LAFC (43) in 2019 and Toronto FC (41) in 2020.
– Pozuelo recorded a goal and an assist in Toronto’s 2-2 draw against New York City on Saturday after being involved in just two goals (two assists) in his first eight appearances this season.
– Bou scored his 11th goal of the season in New England’s win over the Union on Sunday, leaving him tied with Raul Ruidiaz for the league lead. The last Revolution player to win the Golden Boot was Taylor Twellman, who scored a league-best 17 goals in the 2005 season.