Toronto FC fielded an impressively strong attacking lineup in their MLS season opener on Saturday, but couldn’t manage to score on the Columbus Crew. In an uncharacteristically shoddy performance, the Reds fell 2-0 to the team they beat in the Eastern Conference Final a few months ago.
Things seemed to start off well for TFC, with plenty of tantalizing chances in the box during the first half. Still, it was the Crew who struck first, just before halftime. Federico Higuain managed to beat Alex Bono on a volley after Milton Valenzuela sent in a perfect cross from the byline.
Columbus then did it again a minute into the second half. Pedro Santos fed an incredible through ball to Gyasi Zardes, who slotted it into the bottom corner.
All of TFC’s major signings from this winter played a role, both Ager Aketxe and Gregory van der Wiel getting their first starts. Auro came into the game in the second half to replace Victor Vazquez, who seems to have picked up a minor back injury — no word yet on whether he’ll be available for Wednesday’s game against Tigres.
Columbus exposed a couple of concerning weaknesses in TFC. They proved that, once again, a high press can go a long way toward shutting down Toronto’s attack. The Crew also made a meal out of TFC’s right side, finding out fairly early on that Aketxe doesn’t quite have a knack for defending.
Still, it definitely wasn’t all bad from Aketxe. He linked up with Vazquez extremely well, especially in the first half. He also hit the crossbar with a dipping shot from well outside the box.
Van der Wiel’s debut had shades of Chris Mavinga’s first game at BMO; on Columbus’s first goal in particular, he seemed a little lackadaisical.
Of course, the Reds weren’t quite lacking for chances. They didn’t seem to have luck on their side at times; they hit the woodwork on multiple occasions, and just couldn’t finish on several others. This is probably the closest they came to scoring, when Sebastian Giovinco hit the inside of the post and Auro inexplicably passed across rather than have a go himself.
Might not be TFC's day today.... pic.twitter.com/K3l97Ey0tY— Mitchell Tierney (@mitchelltierney) March 3, 2018
All in all, that’s not the way TFC wanted to begin the MLS season. They only lost one league game in all of 2017 at BMO Field, and they’re already 0-1 to begin the new campaign. That’s also the second game in a row where they couldn’t put the ball in the net.
That said, TFC’s start to last season was also pretty lacklustre, and look how that turned out.