There is no question, four games in, that this was by far Toronto FC's biggest, and most unexpected, win. No Defoe, Osorio, Henry, Caldwell? No problem. Toronto escaped Columbus with the full three points adding yet another notch in their impressive start to the 2014 season.
The 2-0 victory is TFC's third of the season, and second on the road. Michael Bradley and Issey Nakajima-Farran both had their first goals in a Toronto uniform. Despite only playing 73 minutes Bradley, wearing the captain's armband, was the clear man of the match, debatably for the fourth straight game.
While each position had pieces missing, the defense was the most greatly affected. With both Caldwell and Henry out Toronto seemed very vulnerable, especially in the middle of the backline. But tactically Nelsen, who has been questionable in this regard to say the least, got it all right.
A makeshift backline of Justin Morrow, Bradley Orr, Nick Hagglund and Mark Bloom were the shining aspect in Toronto's surprising victory. Morrow picked up the slack left by a suspended Steven Caldwell, and not only had his best performance in a Toronto FC uniform on the backend but also set up Nakajima-Farran on the second goal.
Season best performances was a trend throughout the Toronto lineup on this night. Orr and Bloom were very good, with the latter assisting on Michael Bradley's opening goal as well as setting up a chance that saw Gilberto hit the post. Jackson was class once again on the wing, and was far more disciplined after returning from suspension. Alongside Bradley, Kyle Bekker was far more effective than Jeremy Hall. Finally, Nick Hagglund was almost flawless in a surprising rookie performance.
Needless to say Toronto were the beneficiaries of some poor finishing from Columbus, who did not look up to that quality that had seen them win every game before this match. As has been the theme this season TFC had only 37.9% possession, and conceded 5 shots on target. The second half of the match was almost a carbon copy to the Seattle game, with Toronto hanging on as Columbus threw attack after attack at them.
But as has been the case with every Toronto victory so far they allowed Columbus very few chances on net, despite the disproportionate possession and the large amount of time the home side spent in the TFC third. Anything that did end up on goal was stopped by Julio Cesar, who may also have had his best MLS game.
While Toronto's lack of possession continues to be a concern, they get a pass on this occasion. This was a game that just about nobody expected them to keep close, let alone win by two goals. There were also signs that the club is starting to work better together, and soon the possession numbers will likely be closer to even.
With the win Toronto has now won the same amount of games on the road that they did all of last season. It's too early to say they have turned the corner, but they are starting to peek around it.