TORONTO — Lee Nguyen set up two goals and Diego Fagundez scored for the third straight game as the surging New England Revolution defeated Toronto FC 3-1 Sunday to extend its winning streak to five games.
New England has outscored its opposition (13-2) during those five victories. The win also extended its unbeaten run to seven games (6-0-1).
The Revs entered the day in fourth spot in the Eastern Conference with Toronto fifth. Come the playoffs, the fourth-place team will host the fifth-place side.
Toronto (11-12-4) fell six points behind New England in losing its second straight. Greg Vanney’s team needed the points with the New York Red Bulls and Columbus Crew, No. 1 and 3 in the East, posting weekend wins while No. 2 D.C. United tied.
New England (12-9-7) led 2-0 at the half on Fagundez’s goal and an own goal from Toronto defender Damien Perquis.
Robbie Findley scored for Toronto early in the second half, ending New England’s 340-minute shutout streak.
A Kelyn Rowe goal in the 71st minute was the backbreaker, making it 3-1. It came off a Michael Bradley turnover in the penalty box, with Nguyen pilfering the ball off the Toronto captain to feed Rowe.
It was a wild and woolly, fast-paced game that was made all the more entertaining by moments of clown-like defending at both ends of the pitch.
Toronto had plenty of scoring chances but could not pull even, despite some eye-popping plays from Italian star Sebastian Giovinco.
Giovinco, who missed Toronto’s last game with an adductor injury, was at his dangerous best.
He had the crowd on its feet in the first half when he performed a spinarama backheel nutmeg that left several Revolution defenders anchored to the ground before he raced past another New England player and floated a cross in front of goal.
Giovinco was also hacked down on several occasions when New England players ran out of ways to contain him before a crowd of 20,257 on a damp, grey day at BMO Field.
New England’s winning streak started with a 3-1 victory over Toronto at Gillette Stadium on Aug. 1 followed by shutouts over Houston, Philadelphia and Orlando.
The last time Toronto defeated New England at BMO Field was in May 2010. The Revs are 3-0-3 in Toronto since that loss.
New England went ahead in the fourth minute, taking advantage of a gaping open midfield to launch an attack. Perquis, with a New England attacker behind him, stuck out a leg to intercept a Teal Bunbury cross and the ball went straight in the net.
Fagundez made it 2-0 in the 39th minute with a beautifully place shot that capped off a well-worked passing play. Nguyen delivered the final pass before Fagundez unleashed a beautiful shot from outside the penalty box.
The 20-year-old Fagundez, the youngest player to reach the quarter-century mark in MLS scoring, raised his career total to 27. Nguyen, meanwhile, notched his fourth assist in two games.
Toronto fired off 10 shots in the first half but only two were on target. New England has two shots, one of which was on the mark, in the same time frame. Toronto finished the game by outshooting New England 21-7 (5-3 in shots on target).
Findley, who had one of his best games in a TFC uniform, replied for Toronto in the 55th minute by heading in a Justin Morrow cross.
Giovinco was one of five TFC starters back to reinforce the undermanned side that lost 2-1 last weekend in Seattle.
Defenders Ahmed Kantari, Damien Perquis and Morrow were back, along with forwards Jozy Altidore and Giovinco. Defender Nick Hagglund and midfielder Benoit Cheyrou, who went through a lengthy pre-game fitness test, made the Toronto bench.
Toronto visits New York City FC on Wednesday before hosting the Colorado Rapids on Saturday.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press