The Trillium Cup has come back to Toronto and it comes back in style with Toronto FC picking on a Columbus Crew side that is reeling to say the least. With Sunday's 3-0 defeat the Crew have now have failed to pick up a win in nine consecutive games. It has been now more than two calendar months since the Crew last tasted victory on May 28th against Toronto FC's next opponent, Real Salt Lake.
No pity for the Crew from the nearly 24,000 at BMO Field. TFC supporters know all too well what it's like to go for months without a win and the boisterous crowd relished watching the reds keep the shoe of a long winless drought on the foot of someone else for a change.
A major factor in keeping a struggling team like Columbus in the doldrums is to jump on it early and take away any belief that it might have. Tsubasa Endoh, with a lot of help from Sebastian Giovinco, cast the shadow of doubt into the minds of the Crew by scoring in the eighth minute to open things up. Giovinco added a goal of his own later in the half to further choke the hope out of the Crew.
TFC were fully deserving of the 2-0 lead at halftime, but did offer up chances to Columbus in the first forty-five minutes, but as most struggling teams tend to do, they left those chances on the table. Outside of those few flickers of hope, the Crew offered very little going forward. The Toronto backline and keeper Alex Bono had precious little in the way of action on the evening.
The floodgates opened up for Sebastian Giovinco last week against DC United and they stayed open again against Columbus with Seba tallying his twelfth goal of the season and adding two more assists on the evening.
With the anchor of his goalless drought now behind him, Seba looked at ease and comfortable on the pitch all night long and the trademark Seba smile was back in abundance. That smile was at its biggest late in the night, with the win already in the bag when he set up Jozy Altidore for his first goal of the season.
The watch is over. Jozy Altidore has his first goal of 2016 for Toronto FC. Altidore, when fit has done a lot of things right and his presence makes Sebastian Giovinco's life much easier as he is capable of creating and by drawing in opposing centre backs to open up space for the Italian. Altidore is even a handful in the TFC defensive third, taking away time and space on the ball and creating turnovers.
The one knock on Jozy all season long is that he hasn't scored. That weight of fitness frustrations and lack of goal production was lifted off of Altidore's shoulders with his 87th-minute goal. He looked relieved and relaxed both on the pitch and in the locker room postgame.
The diamond midfield was back after TFC had gone with the 3-5-2 formation in two earlier draws against Columbus this season. With Benoit Cheyrou out of the lineup due to injury, head coach Greg Vanney mentioned post-match that he was tempted to go back to the 3-5-2, but feels the need to settle into a more consistent tactical formation game in and game out as the season starts to wind its way toward the conclusion.
The kids are alright. Vanney employed a very young midfield with Delgado (21), Endoh (22), Chapman (22) and the elder statesman, Jonathan Osorio (24) getting the start in midfield. All four were steady in answering the challenge against the Crew.
Marky Delgado had a tough task, filling in for Benoit Cheyrou, who has arguably been TFC's best player over the course of the last month in the absence of Michael Bradley and Will Johnson. Delgado looked poised quarterbacking the attack in midfield. His passing accuracy was over 90% on the evening and he won the ball that led to Endoh's opening tally.
Jay Chapman may have had one of his most composed games as a member of Toronto FC on Sunday night against the Crew. Chapman has been the beneficiary of more playing time thanks to the injuries in midfield. He has seized upon the opportunity by growing and gaining confidence with each minute that he gets on the pitch.
With only one loss at home in 2016, BMO Field is again becoming the fortress that it was in the early days. The fine home form bodes well for the reds this week with Real Salt Lake at BMO Field on Wednesday and New England in town on Saturday before TFC heads out on the road for a three-game road trip. Following that trip, all but two of Toronto's final eight games will be at home.