Crew Suffer First Defeat in Toronto

The Columbus Crew traveled into Canada to play Toronto FC on Saturday in a matchup that both teams would probably have regarded as a “must win” beforehand. Crew forward Jairo Arrieta was back from international duty, Matias Sanchez was back from his yellow card suspension, and Agustin Viana was also back from his prolonged injury layoff.  All 3 players stepped straight into the starting lineup to replace Konrad Warzycha, Aaron Schoenfeld and Chad Barson respectively. The rest of the lineup was carried over from the previous game against the New England Revolution. Bernardo Anor has kept his spot in the lineup with some impressive performances lately (including 2 goals), along with Dominic Oduro, who’s having a career year in Columbus. Toronto came into the match on a 6 game losing streak, and had only beaten the Crew once in 17 league matches all time.

Andy Gruenebaum

The Crew opened up the first half with a lot of positive possession and was duly rewarded for the positive endeavor when Dominic Oduro blasted the opener in the 16th minute. The Ghanaian took the ball well off his chest and caught Toronto goalkeeper Joe Bendik off his line with a great finish. The Crew finished out the half relatively strongly, settling for a 1 goal lead. The second half started off as the first half ended, with some concerted pressure from the visitors, but that all changed as the game drew to a close. As the seconds started ticking off the clock, the heavens opened up and a slight rain shower became torrential.  It was if the rain had completely washed away any residual confidence this Columbus team had gained throughout the first 86 minutes of the match. When the game hit the 87th minute, Toronto forward Bobby Convey laid the ball off to a charging Jonathan Osorio, who put the shot past a helpless Andy Gruenebaum. Toronto wasn’t done there though when defender Stephen Caldwell had his header ricochet off the post in the 90th minute.  It all seemed inevitable that Toronto would find the winner before the final whistle, and it only took another 2 minutes to happen. Andrew Wiedeman directed the ball past Gruenebaum in goal in the 94th minute after another pass from Convey and relegated the Crew to another late disheartening defeat.

This defeat brings up a lot of questions about where this season is ultimately heading for the Crew. One of the main problems is the lack of squad depth available to coach Robert Warzycha. There are obviously some key injuries, but there aren’t many options off the bench that can change a game. Ben Speas and Wil Trapp are definitely up and coming prospects and will become stars in this league, but both are still extremely young and need time to bed into the team. This summer’s transfer window may become important as well but with the lack of funds available to the Crew front office, it’s hard to see how the team can be truly strengthened.  Finally, the issue of the youthfulness of the squad is something that needs to be talked about. Whether the youthful domination of the starting lineup in recent weeks is an actual tactical policy, or forced upon the Crew FO/Warzycha because of a lack of funds is open to debate.  It’s always important to help the inexperienced players get some confidence and game time, but trying to get them all through at the same time is probably a recipe for disaster. If you look at last week’s game against the New England Revolution, Coach Warzycha elected to start 6 different players under the age of 26. The veteran players are required to do so much that it’s impossible for the team to gel and function effectively as a whole.  This is definitely an issue that needs to be addressed in the next couple of weeks. Time is running out on the Crew’s postseason hopes.

The win for Toronto snapped a prolonged winless streak, while the Crew slipped down into 8th place with 5 losses in the last 6 games. The defeat was a disappointing blow for the Crew’s hopes at the playoffs. It looked like everything was going right for the Crew in Canada. Columbus had a lot of the ball in dangerous areas, created some chances, and limited the work that goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum had to do, but in the end it wasn’t enough. It’s hard to take as Crew fan because of how well the team can play at times, only for it to be thrown all away in the blink of an eye.  

The Crew’s next game is on August 3rd, away to the Houston Dynamo, while Toronto FC plays the New England Revolution one day later.

(image courtesy of USA Today Sports Images)

About Dustyn Richardson

Managing editor and Houston Dynamo writer for Total-MLS. Fan of all Houston sports teams and Manchester United supporter. Still angry at Bud Selig for moving the Astros to the American League.