The Columbus Crew SC brought Toronto FC back to earth with a 2-0 victory at BMO Field on Saturday. With this victory, the Crew overlapped the Reds in the Eastern Conference standings. Now, Columbus sits in second place with 50 points.
Toronto entered this game with a lot of confidence after clinching their first trip to the Major League Soccer (MLS) playoffs in franchise history. They defeated first place New York Red Bulls 2-1 on Wednesday at home. Now back at home, TFC were looking to build on their momentum and potentially challenge the Red Bulls for first in the East.
However, Crew midfielder Ethan Finlay's instinctive finish gave Columbus a goal in the 40th minute which sunk TFC’s ship and made it 1-0. For the goal, Columbus midfielder Federico Higuaín delivered an accurate cross into the center of the penalty box from a corner kick. Crew’s center midfielder Tony Tchanni beat out two Reds defenders and headed the ball towards Finlay. The midfielder let the ball hit the ground and fired a low shot into the net to give Columbus the lead before halftime.
"It was one of those must win games. We identified it having two games left, that we needed to come here and get a result, and we did that," Finlay said after the match. "It was a tough match, I think we showed a lot of character in this game, especially in the second half. It wasn’t easy, they applied a lot of pressure. Coming up with some big saves on the free kick, it was a big performance for us."
However, the Superman performance from Crew goalkeeper Steve Clark on the road kept the Reds frustrated, as he made six saves.
Even Toronto’s superstar forward Sebastion Giovinco was not able to break through. He created two shots and was able to blast one on target, but nothing changed. His creativity forced the Crew's defense to foul the Italian four times, but Columbus still held on.
With the Reds chasing for the equalizer, their defense began to open up. The Crew took advantage by creating 16 shots and placed five of them in between the frames. Toronto’s goalie Joe Bendik did his part, and stopped three of their shots but eventually Columbus was able to seal the deal late on.
Higuaín came crashing into the box while being tightly contested by a Reds defender. The Argentine playmaker body checked a TFC defender to buy some time on the ball before he quickly curled the ball over Bendik’s right hand to make it 2-0 in the 91st minute.
"It certainly boosts the confidence, the guys worked hard," Crew manager Gregg Berhalter said after the victory. "I thought the defending in regards to Giovinco was good, it took a team effort to contain him."
Toronto is now in third place with 40 points, and if they want to climb back up to second they will need to defeat the Montreal Impact next Sunday at Stade Saputo. However, they will also need the Crew to lose against DC United on Sunday at MAPFRE Stadium.