The photo up top shows where it all went wrong, Tony Tchani had just put Toronto FC 1-0 up towards the end of the first half, bringing an end to Columbus' club record for most minutes without conceding. Of course after scoring, Tchani ran all the way to the sidelines, over the ad boards and over to the crowd, that was his second yellow card of the game and from then on, TFC had to change their play, and ended up hanging on for a 1-1 draw.
A harsh second yellow card for sure, and the inconsistency of when that type of celebration is given a yellow and when it isn't can be infuriating, but though it's a stupid rule, it is the rule, and when already on a yellow, to put that decision in the hands of an MLS referee is just a really dumb decision by Tchani.
It was certainly another creative way to ensure we still haven't beaten Columbus, not as bad as the injury time equaliser scored by a goalie, but definitely a strange way to continue the hoodoo. It's a shame as it really had been a good first half from Toronto, one of the best 45 minutes of the season, with good performances from Julian De Guzman, Javier Martina, and especially Alan Gordon.
When Toronto FC traded Nick Labrocca to Chivas USA for Alan Gordon, it really didn't get much attention. It seemed like one role player for another, swapping a midfielder for a forward, neither of whom would really be that important for the upcoming season, nowhere near as exciting a signing as the later addition of Alen Stevanovic. But seven games into the season and it's clear Gordon's become one of the most important players in the team. After missing a couple of games with an injury, it's no coincidence that TFC all of a sudden looked much more dangerous and fluent up front in the 45 minutes he played against Columbus Crew, their ability to retain possession and actually create chances from open play was dramatically improved over the two games he missed against LA and DC.
With Stevanovic out injured, it was a completely different forward line with Gordon as the Centre Forward, Javier Martina switched to the Left Wing and Jacob Peterson continuing his quest to play every position for TFC this season, going from Right Back last week to Right Wing this week. Peterson didn't really get forward much and had a negligible impact on the game before moving into a more defensive Central Midfield role in the second half to replace the sent off Tony Tchani.
Martina on the Left Wing looked much more effective, if a little less flashy, than he has in the last few games on the right, cutting inside a lot and working well with the overlapping full back Danleigh Borman. He also worked well with Gordon who had a great half, many times dropping deep to receive a pass, dragging the defence out of position before playing the ball into that space for Martina or others to run on to.
Gordon dropping deep was a big part of how TFC scored, but it was really Julian De Guzman who was the key man in a move that really must have made Aron Winter happy, and gave a great glimpse of what he's trying to bring to TFC. Dan Gargan intercepted a ball near the edge of TFC's box, and with short controlled passing, he, De Guzman, Peterson and Santos all managed to move the ball up the right side of the pitch. Gordon then came back playing a very simple give and go with De Guzman, but crucially dragging Chad Marshall out of defence with him and leaving plenty of space for Tony Tchani to run into, De Guzman lobbed the ball over the defence and after one bounce Tchani buried it in the far corner, a beautiful team goal.
That high point was of course followed by the low of Tchani's second yellow card for jumping over the ad boards to go and hug some fans. The sending off changed the game as in the second half, down to ten men and with Gordon subbed off for Mikael Yourassowsky at the start of the second half, a decision described by Aron Winter as a precaution to keep him fit for the busy upcoming schedule, TFC played more a more defensive style, relying on Javier Martina and late sub Joao Plata to use their speed to create something on the break.
Columbus' goal wasn't a great defensive effort form TFC, Sebastian Miranda was given acres of space to put a cross in and Adrian Cann was pushed away and then outjumped by Emilio Renteria to head the cross past Stefan Frei. Aside from that though, the defence looked fairly solid, Dicoy Williams got his first start and looked good alongside Adrian Cann whose bruised ribs healed enough to allow him to play with the aid of painkillers. It speaks well for the trust Cann has regained after his pre-season contract issues that Winter gave him the start and let him play the full 90 minutes despite being a bit banged up. He had another good game, and seems to be consistently back to his 2010 form and in a defence that's still very full of question marks, he's become the one constant.
With only 1 win and 7 points to show from their first 7 games, and with the schedule about to get much tougher, TFC are going to have to improve a lot if they want to make the playoffs this year, but as opposed to last week's game, there were a lot of positives to take from this game, not least the development of a strong spine through the centre of the team with Frei, Cann, De Guzman and Gordon. There was a lot of excitement when Winter was announced and a lot of speculation about the sort of player's he'd be bringing in, who'd have thought it would be a journeyman MLS Centre Forward, a quintessential "big man up front" that would prove to be his most astute signing so far, and so crucial to his plans?