After holding the edge in their opening game yet still coming up short, the Columbus Crew SC left no doubt in their second game. Facing off against Toronto FC in their home opener, they took full advantage of a dubious red card to cruise to a 2-0 victory. Justin Meram and Kei Kamara scored the game’s goals in a four-minute stretch of the second half.
Columbus made two changes to the starting lineup from their opening game. Justin Meram returned from his one game suspension to take over the left wing from Kristin Steindorsson, while Mohammed Saied replaced the suspended Tony Tchani at holding midfield.
Toronto FC arrived in central Ohio on the heels of an impressive road win in Vancouver. The team turned heads in the offseason with high profile signings like Jozy Altidore and Giovinco, continuing a trend started last year when Michael Bradley and Jermain Defoe joined the squad. While Defoe has since returned to England, Bradley remains and forms part of a fearsome-on-paper midfield that also includes Giovinco and Benoit Cheyrou.
For much of the first half, the two teams lived up to their billing. Columbus built a sizable edge in possession, but Toronto showed plenty of attacking quality. Altidore, Giovinco, and Benoit Cheyrou all cropped up in dangerous places at times, and Crew SC were lucky not to fall behind in the first half.
For the home team, Kei Kamara saw his seventh minute shot go straight into goalkeeper Joe Bendik. The Sierra Leone international also lost a footrace with Bendik a few minutes later, trying to reach a defense-splitting pass from Higuain.
After such a relatively even first half, the game changed irrevocably just before the break. Toronto defender Justin Morrow was issued a direct red card for an apparent foul on Ethan Finlay as the winger raced toward the penalty area. Replays appeared to show otherwise, but referee David Gantar – after consulting with his assistant – judged that Morrow had illegaly denied a goal scoring opportunity, and sent Morrow to an early shower.
Gantar was asked to clarify the ejection after the game, and issued the following written statement:
“Justin Morrow was sent off the field of play for denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity to an opponent moving towards the player’s goal by an offense punishable by a free kick.”
The ejection forced Toronto into a reshuffling of their lineup, as coach Greg Vanney made two changes at the break. Midfielder Jonathan Osorio was removed from the right flank and replaced by Ashtone Morgan at left back. Simultaneously, center back Steven Caldwell was replaced by Nick Hagglund.
Toronto started the second half with a compact and organized defensive shape, thwarting several Columbus attacks while the home team tried to come to terms with their numerical superiority.
The game’s first goal finally came just before the hour mark when Ethan Finlay found time on the right flank to pick his target for a cross, and picked out a late-arriving Justin Meram at the top of the penalty area. Kei Kamara served as a decoy this time, drawing the defense’s attention while Meram ghosted in from the left flank.
Four minutes later Crew SC struck again, this time from the left side. Drawing Toronto out of their shell with possession in their own half, Wil Trapp sprung Waylon Francis on a sprint up the sideline. Francis drove in an early cross as he reached the attacking channel, splitting the space between Kamara and Bendik. This time, Kamara made no mistake from close range and provided the game’s insurance goal.
Justin Meram twice struck the woodwork as Columbus continued to press their advantage. In the 65th minute he rang the base of the left post, while ten minutes later he lofted a chip onto the crossbar from an impossible angle.
Toronto, though largely toothless in attack during the second half, did almost grab an equalizer in stoppage time. The Columbus defense was caught napping on a free kick, allowing center back Damien Perquis to almost latch onto a loose ball at Steve Clark’s left post – but instead the ball bounced harmlessly out of bounds.
What it means
Columbus improves to 1-1 on the young season, while Toronto falls to the same record. Crew SC will be idle next weekend, but return to play on March 28th with a home game against the New York Red Bulls.
Mohammed Saied became the 223rd player in team history to appear in official competition, and is the third player to make his debut this season.
The announced attendance of 15,826 was the smallest home-opener crowd of the last four years.
Kei Kamara’s goal came 2,814 days after his last goal in a Columbus shirt, scored on June 30, 2007 against New York. That gap breaks the previous mark for most time between Columbus goals, set by Jeff Cunningham after a span of 2,461 days.
Timeline of events
4′ Corner kick, Toronto (right side – cleared by Wil Trapp)
19′ Corner kick, Columbus (right side – no shot taken)
31′ Corner kick, Columbus (left side – taken high, Saied shot is blocked)
45′ Ejection, Justin Morrow (denial of goalscoring opportunity on Ethan Finlay)
45′ Ashtone Morgan replaces Jonathan Osorio
45′ Nick Hagglund replaces Steven Caldwell
57′ 1-0 Justin Meram (Ethan Finlay)
61′ 2-0 Kei Kamara (Waylon Francis, Wil Trapp)
69′ Hector Jimenez replaces Ethan Finlay
75′ Corner kick, Columbus (right side – short, headed clear)
76′ Kevan George replaces Mohammed Saied
83′ Kristinn Steindorsson replaces Hernan Grana
85′ Caution, Kevan George (reckless tackle)
86′ Collen Warner replaces Sebastian Giovinco
Steve Clark, Hernan Grana (Kristinn Steindorsson 83′), Michael Parkhurst, Emanuel Pogatetz, Waylon Francis, Wil Trapp, Mohammed Saied (Kevan George 76′), Ethan Finlay (Hector Jimenez 69′), Federico Higuain, Justin Meram, Kei Kamara
Matt Lampson, Tyson Wahl, Chris Klute, Aaron Schoenfeld
Joe Bendik, Warren Creavalle, Steven Caldwell (Nick Hagglund 45′), Damien Perquis, Justin Morrow (sent off 45′), Jonathan Osorio (Ashtone Morgan 45′), Michael Bradley, Benoit Cheyrou, Sebastian Giovinco (Collen Warner 86′), Robbie Findley, Jozy Altidore
Chris Konopka, Eriq Zavaleta, Marco Delgado, Luke Moore