Photo by USA Today Sports Images
By DAN KARELL
COLUMBUS, Ohio — For the first time in club history, Toronto FC have completed a season sweep of the Columbus Crew.
Even without Jermain Defoe in action, TFC’s other forwards picked up the slack as both Gilberto and Luke Moore scored in a 3-2 victory over the Crew at Crew Stadium on Saturday evening. Moore was the man of the match for TFC, scoring the game winning goal and providing assists on the first two goals for his club.
“For the neutral it was probably a very entertaining game,” TFC head coach Ryan Nelsen said. “I thought in the first half we created so many very good opportunities to probably put the game to bed and we just didn’t take them. You knew (the Crew) weren’t going to give up and then (we) ended up (with) the 3rd goal. I think it was probably a just reward when you look at the overall game and look at the chances that we created.”
After a mostly listless first half, the match woke up with two goals in the final three minutes.
TFC took their first lead of the match in the 43rd minute when Gilberto was played into the left channel of the box by Moore. The Designated Player created space against Crew defender Giancarlo Gonzalez and fired a low left-footed strike that went past Crew goalkeeper Steve Clark for a goal.
“We never for a second lost faith in him,” TFC midfielder Michael Bradley said of Gilberto. “I know at times the media is a little different, I know especially for forwards how important it is just to get goals. But even on days when he doesn’t score, his contribution is so important and together with Luke Moore, they were such a handfull tonight and really did such a good job of making the game difficult for (the Crew’s) defenders.”
The Crew rebounded quickly in first-half stoppage time as TFC defender Justin Morrow conceded a penalty for a handball in the box off a Crew corner kick.
Federico Higuain, who gave up possession in the run-up to the first goal, forced TFC goalkeeper Joe Bendik the wrong way and scored easily to tie the match.
The match remained wide open into the second half, and TFC regained the lead in the 59th minute. Off a Crew turnover in midfield, Gilberto fed a wide-open Moore into the box. Clark came out to try and make the save but the ball pinged off Moore and over to Osorio, who tapped into an empty net.
“I think every game Gilberto is getting better and he took his goal really well and probably could have had another one,” Nelsen said. “And Luke, the ball falls for him. Some of his link up play, which is his strength, is fantastic.”
Following the goal, Crew head coach Gregg Berhalter made two changes, bringing in Justin Meram and Jairo Arrieta, and the substitutions had an impact on the match to bring the crowd of 17,822 back into the game.
In the 81st minute, Meram sent in a right-footed cross from the left wing towards fellow substitute Aaron Schoenfeld, but the ball went well over Schoenfeld’s head. However, Bendik misread the flight of the ball and the ball nestled itself in the far netting, tying the match once more, this time at 2-2.
“I don’t care how goals come,” Berhalter said. “A goal is a goal. At the end of the day, 10 years from now you’re not going to say a penalty kick and a cross shot. I thought that we created other good opportunities especially in the first half. We had some good moves that we were in front of goal that we could make something happen and this is a very good defensive team, Toronto.”
TFC didn’t take long though to re-gain the lead for the third time of the night. Three minutes after the Crew’s equalizer, Collen Warner sent in an in-swinging corner kick from the right that found the head of Moore, who powered it in for the go-ahead goal.
With the victory, TFC moved up to 32 points on the season, staying in third place. The Crew meanwhile fell out of the playoff places in the Eastern Conference, falling to sixth place.
“We had control of the game and we ended up going one to nothing down and we have to fight to get back into the game,” Berhalter said. “I think it’s difficult when you put yourself in that position over and over again to come back into the game. We showed the spirit to do it twice but came up short the third time.”
Here are the game highlights: