FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - Every week digs Toronto FC a little bit deeper into a hole of its own making.
The latest in a string of five defeats came from a 2-0 setback at New England on Saturday night.
Diego Fagundez scored after 23 minutes to stake the Revolution (4-4-4) to an early lead. Juan Agudelo secured the points for the home side by poking home a Saer Sene cross in second-half stoppage time to extend TFC's run without a victory to nine matches.
It may have marked the first time the Reds (1-7-4) fell to a defeat by more than one goal this season, but that fact — and a modest improvement in the second half — obscures the depths the Reds are currently exploring as they try to turn matters around sooner rather than later.
"It's difficult, actually," said Toronto striker Robert Earnshaw. "It's difficult. They were better than us today. They kept the ball. What they did attacking-wise was better than us. They got two goals. Maybe they could have got one or two more. It was difficult for us as a team. What we should have done was really step it up from the beginning. That's down to the team. As a team, we didn't turn up today. That's what we need to have a look at. That's what we need to improve next week."
TFC coach Ryan Nelsen insisted his team showed what it could be for 60 minutes of this particular encounter, but the results — and a current run that includes one win in the last 26 league matches — suggest plenty of room for improvement still exists.
Most of the problems with a poor opening period punctuated by Fagundez's third goal in three games. Revolution left back Chris Tierney worked his way into space down the left side and curled an inviting cross toward the far post. Fagundez floated away from makeshift TFC left back Darren O'Dea and then thumped home the opener to place TFC in a position to chase the game once more.
"We didn't start well," Nelsen said. "I think the first 20 minutes was not what we wanted. When you come away from home, especially against a team that is pretty confident, and you give them that start, it wasn't good."
The visitors did their best to muster a response even before the first-year coach offered strident words at halftime. Recent loan signing Jeremy Brockie saw the potential equalizer skip off his forehead right before the break.
Brockie nearly combined with Earnshaw soon after play resumed, but his pullback never reached the Wales international in a promising position eight yards from goal.
Toronto FC controlled much of the possession from that point forward, but it lacked the incisiveness and the quality to carve open one of the league's top defences. The usual diet of direct play — complemented at times by neat passing by Matias Laba and recent Canada call-up Jonathan Osorio through midfield — never produced the equalizer required to snap the current drought.
"It's very frustrating when you put in a performance like that," Nelsen said. "You outpossess the team (in the second half). You outshoot the team on their home field. And you go away empty-handed. We started slow, which is not what we wanted. I'd say for 60 minutes of that game, we were what we can be. But that's frustrating because it's just a tease."
After six-and-a-half years of the same sort of behaviour, the Reds are used to the situation and the response required to extricate themselves from it. Nelsen once again promised further reinforcements to improve the quality within the ranks, but those signings might have to wait until summer and TFC does not have a lot of time to spare.
Right now, Nelsen and his players must concoct a way to pull themselves out of this well-worn rut before this extended skid completely derails their season. Earnshaw said he and his teammates must improve in short order to reverse the current plight and stop writing these painful chapters week after week.
"I think the confidence is there," Earnshaw said. "What we need to do is find a way of putting the confidence into the right things and doing the right things to make us win. We have to figure it out."