There’s an old saying, which goes along the lines of ‘I’d rather be lucky than good.’
This summed up Toronto FC yesterday as they etched out a 1-1 draw against the reigning MLS Champions. Columbus created enough chances to win the game before Toronto scored late on to head home with a precious point.
The Crew are often called the hardest working team in the MLS. While the Reds may not have had many chances in front of goal, they easily matched the effort put forward by the home team.
As usual, 2008 MVP Guillermo Barros Schelotto was at the heart of everything for the Crew who started fast out of the gates.
As early as the second minute, Schelotto split the Toronto defence down the middle, playing a penetrating ball for Emmanuel Ekpo to run onto. Unfortunately for the Nigerian, he shot wide left with only goalkeeper Stefan Frei to beat.
In the seventh minute Brian Caroll made a cross field pass from the left, setting up Eddie Gaven, who shot over the Toronto goal from the edge of the area.
On 16 minutes, TFC eventually had a chance, with Sam Cronin putting a ball through for Dwayne De Rosario in the Columbus penalty area. However, the Canadian international was forced away from goal and his shot went wide of the target.
Columbus was in control and finally got the breakthrough they deserved after half an hour. From the edge of the penalty area, Schelotto attempted a cross. Defender Kevin Harmse tried to block the shot, but as he turned away, the ball hit his raised arm. Penalty.
The stand-in captain stepped up and drilled the ball down the middle as Freil dived to his right. 1-0 Columbus. In 2008, the Crew were 13-0-0 when taking the lead, illustrating the size of the task ahead for Toronto.
The champions continued to press and could easily have gone two up in the 37th minute. Gaven shot from 25 yards out, hitting the left post. The rebound eventually fell to Ekpo inside the 18-yard box, but Freil made an excellent save, pushing the ball over the crossbar.
Halftime couldn’t come soon enough for Toronto, who went into the locker room happy to only be one goal down.
There was a change in the Toronto goal at half time, with Greg Sutton coming in for Freil, who strained his back during the first half.
Toronto appeared more positive after the break, but quality chances were still few and far between. A Chad Barrett shot blasted high over the crossbar on 52 minutes summed up his game and the frustrated forward was eventually substituted for fan favourite Danny Dichio.
After an hour, Columbus was still creating the better chances, but Sutton was dealing with everything that came into his area with calm and authority.
The game seemed to be moving with no real urgency as we passed the 75-minute mark. Then, hope emerged for TFC as Columbus replaced Scholetto with Steven Lenhart.
Spirited by the substitution, De Rosario got sight of goal on 80 minutes, but, like Barrett, blasted the ball high over the crossbar.
However, the bit of luck, which you sometimes need, came Toronto’s way in the 84th minute. An obstruction against Jed Zayner gave TFC a free kick, which De Rosario curled into the penalty area. Crew defender Gino Padula headed the ball, but it looped towards goal.
The ball hit the crossbar, came back out and hit goalkeeper William Hesmer in the back, going into the net for an own goal. 1-1.
As unbelievable as it seemed, TFC were now in a position to win and had their best chance four minutes from time. Substitute Johann Smith cut down the left wing and crossed into Dichio, who in turn played the ball out to De Rosario. Unfortunately, Toronto’s best player once more hit the ball over the Crew crossbar.
Time was running out, but Columbus had one last guilt edged chance to win the game. In a mirror image of the Reds chance two minutes earlier, Lenhart crossed in from the right to Jason Garey. In turn, he squared the ball to Ekpo who hit his shot over goal.
And that was it. Toronto held on for a hard-fought 1-1 draw as they continued their good start to the season. After two games, they find themselves level on points with Chicago and New England in the Eastern division.
TFC will take great heart from this match and now return to Southern Ontario for their home opener against the red-hot Seattle Sounders. Suddenly, talk of a playoff spot does not seem so far-fetched for the third year outfit.
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