TORONTO - The way Toronto FC celebrated after Saturday's 2-1 win over Sporting Kansas City, you'd think the team hadn't won a league match since last July.
You'd be right, of course.
Powered by Robert Earnshaw's first half brace, the Reds rode a dominant opening 45 minutes at the Rogers Centre to their first three points of the 2013 MLS campaign. More importantly, the win was the club's first since last summer, a sobering fact that was not lost on the players or staff.
"For the whole club, I think there's been a few mental scars over the past couple of years," TFC head coach Ryan Nelsen told reporters after the match. "To grind a result like that you need mental strength, you need character. The guys showed it in abundance."
The tone was set from the opening whistle, as the home side -- playing its home opener under the dome and on an artificial surface -- pressed Kansas City back almost immediately. The strategy paid off as Earnshaw pounced on a mistake by Sporting defender Matt Besler to give Toronto the lead just three minutes into the contest.
"I just tried to read his body language, tried to read the pass, tried to see it early," Earnshaw said of his first of two strikes on the afternoon. "Maybe it's that killer instinct in me. I was happy because it came so early, as well. I think it was important for the team that it came so early."
After Earnshaw doubled TFC's lead 15 minutes later, the Reds continued their disruptive play through the rest of the first half. The closing 45 minutes were a different story, however, as Kansas City took over for large spells and eventually pulled back to within one goal with just over 10 minutes left.
From then on out it was nail-biting time for both TFC and its fans, who had seen several late-game collapses last year which led to dozens of dropped points and a league-worst record. However, unlike the 2012 edition of TFC, the current Reds managed to grind out the victory and send the 25,991 in attendance into raptures.
It was as if Toronto had won an important cup match rather than the second regular season match of the 2013 campaign, and that's just fine with newcomer Earnshaw, who joined the team last week.
"We wanted to celebrate, because it was important for us to start winning games early and because of that, any time you win is an incredible feeling.
"We should all take it in and really celebrate."
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