This was not a game any other version of TFC would have won. Playing well and with a deserved lead, they give up a harsh penalty to end the first half 1-1. After re-taking the lead, they sit back invite pressure and a defensive mixup makes it 2-2. Do they desperately try and cling to the point before inevitably collapsing and conceding the late winner? Nope. Not this year as they go ahead for the 3rd time then fairly comfortably hold on to it and get the 3 points. That's 9 points from 3 games with Columbus, which is another fact historical TFC teams would consider baffling. That's now 32 points, and a solid 4 point lead (with a game in hand) in the battle for 3rd place. Lovely stuff.
Ryan Nelsen went with an unchanged lineup for this one and it was a fairly similar performance to what we've seen recently through the first half. Michael Bradley and Collen Warner were both playing quite deep and it led to TFC looking fairly solid at the back and keeping possession quite well. Up front Dominic Oduro was as involved as usual, having a running battle with Waylon Francis right form the first minute when Francis fouled him leaving him off the pitch and needing attention for a couple of minutes. His speed was a factor but of course the 'as usual' bit with Oduro involves some frustration and missed chances and we certainly got those. Luke Moore was even worse as he wasted a few opportunites in the first half, whether shooting over the bar, or shooting straight at defenders when Oduro was wide open to his side. As for Gilberto, he was doing some good things as well as taking his usual share of hard fouls and again looking like he might be seriously injured several times.
It all worked out for those 3 though in the 43rd minute as a turnover saw the ball moved out to the right wing for Oduro with Francis out of position. He move the ball inside to Moore who moved it on to Gilberto on the edge of the box, he took a stride and rolled a left foot shot just inside the far post for the lead. That's 4 goals now, and with goals in 2 consecutive games, the wolf at Ol' Gil's door is thoroughly slayed and on his barbecue. I now officially renounce the Ol' Gil nickname, and look forward to the first time Golberto scores at BMO Field, I can't help but think the place will go crazy when that happens. Also, when Jermain Defoe comes back form injury, please play both of them at the same time. Thankyou.
A lead to take into half time, perfect, but then it all went wrong as Justin Morrow went up to try and win a header from a corner in injury time. The crew player won the header, which hit Morrow's arm, raised as he jumped to try win the header, from point blank range and the ref pointed to the spot, a very harsh interpretation of the handball rule. Federico Higuain scored the penalty and so 1-1 at half time it was.
TFC took another deserved lead in the 59th minute, a lovely through ball from Gilberto was kind of messed up by Luke Moore, a poor touch leading to a shot that was saved but the rebound went right to Jonathan Osorio who put it into the empty net. Cue a few seconds of waiting to see if it would be allowed as it looked like he used his arm to control the ball, but the handball gods favoured TFC this time and the goal counted.
Shortly after that Jackson was brought on for Oduro, Ryan Nelsen seeming all kinds of proactive, an early sub for the more defensively minded winger. It didn't really help things though and the game went more and more in Columbus' favour, more and more pressure applied, with Joe Bendik's poor distribution again not helping and Doneil Henry having a few dodgy moments. No further subs were forthcoming to relieve the pressure and eventually the pressure told and a Justin Meram in-swinging cross in the 81st minute caused all sorts of problems. the Crew attacker didn't get his head to it but was close enough that Bendik had to respect the chance he'd have to make a save. Henry meanwhile didn't go up to win and clear the ball either and thus the cross continued it's merry way to the back post, Bendik unable to get over in time, and in it went. 2-2. It was all Columbus, TFC hadn't held on, surely there was only one winner from here on in right?
Well no, somewhat surprisingly TFC went up the other end won a corner that they took quickly and Luke Moore got in front of the defender and finally got a good shot off, a bullet header that gave the goalie no chance, 3-2 after 84 minutes, and this time they saw the lead home with very little drama, a Michel Bradley free kick just turned over the bar the last action of the game.
As mentioned above, TFC are back to looking good for a playoff spot, 2 wins in a row (both without Jermain Defoe. Hmmmm.) making the post world cup break struggles seem less important. 32 points is of course higher than the point totals of the last 2 years, and is within a win of tying their 2nd best season ever, with 2009's rather pitiful 39 point best season ever benchmark also fast approaching. Heady times for Reds fans. Disarmingly unfamiliar, confusing heady times.