Running Diary: Columbus Crew vs. Toronto FC
A running chronicle of this season's first match is after the jump...
3:45 p.m. Entering the stadium, the first thing I notice—and how could I not?—is the massive stage that has supplanted the former supporters' section in the North End. I've heard complaints from some fans that the new structure is an eyesore, but to me it looks like a great idea. The Crew saw an opportunity with the closing of Germain Amphitheater, and they jumped at it. Sure, today's post-game Saving Jane concert isn't much to write home about, but any chance to keep megatours coming to Columbus and keep Crew Stadium viable in one swoop seems like a wise choice to me.
3:55 Despite the beautiful weather, the crowd is pretty sparse. My parents, longtime season ticket holders, are on vacation this week. Maybe that's where everybody else is.
3:57 Wherever the Crew fans are, this crowd might have trouble out-shouting the thousands of Toronto fans who made the trip down here.
3:59 Your Toronto starters: GK Brian Edwards, D Marvell Wynne, D Tyrone Marshall, D Marco Velez, D Jim Brennan, M Carl Robinson, M Maurice Edu, M Tyler Hemming, M Todd Dunivant, F Collin Samuel, F Jeff Cunningham.
4:02 You sure can hear those Canadians singing along with "O Canada."
4:05 Your Crew starters: GK Will Hesmer, D Frankie Hejduk, D Chad Marshall, D Danny O'Rourke, D Stefani Miglioranzi, M Robbie Rogers, M Brian Carroll, M Adam Moffat, M Eddie Gaven, F Guillermo Barros Schelotto, F Alejandro Moreno.
4:08 We have kickoff.
4:09 Schelotto drives into the left side of the box, but his cross is deflected into Edwards' arms for an easy scoop.
4:10 Moreno's one-on-one battle with a defender is thwarted by some sort of whistle.
4:13 Cunningham is the beneficiary of a great long-range pass, sending him on the run with only one man to beat. But that man is Marshall, and he runs back to intercept and blast the ball out for a throw-in.
4:14 Toronto is stringing together some solid offense. The Crew had better conjure up some of their own.
4:15 A Crew attack somehow turns into a Toronto surge that nearly nets a goal before Hesmer scoops the ball off Cunningham's feet.
4:17 Hejduk doesn't wait long to pick up his first yellow card of the season in a skirmish on the far right.
4:18 Toronto's forwards run a successful full-court press.
4:20 Hemming drives down the right flank for Toronto and gets a sweet arching pass across the goal mouth. Cunningham fails to connect, while Samuel gets there too late and sends an errant strike over the top.
4:21 The Crew still doesn't seem to have a midfield passing game. They either don't try and simply lob the ball downfield for the forwards to chase, or they do try to string some passes together and it ain't pretty.
4:23 Moreno gets closer to goal than he has been all game, so he decides to shoot from a poor angle rather than not shoot at all. Not a bad choice, really—I wish the Crew would take a chance and shoot more often—but this particular blast came nowhere near target.
4:25 Cunningham is up to his old tricks, engaging in some fancy footwork to get around his defender, but Hejduk, swooping in from the wing, is having none of it.
4:27 Toronto squanders a free kick, then Rogers manages to track down Schelotto's outlet pass and evade a defender. His shot, unfortunately, is undeniably dinky.
4:28 And just like that Cunningham's running toward goal again. Could we be in for some excitement finally?
4:29 Back to the Columbus attack. Gaven receives a pass on the wing and sends a dangerous through ball, but it sneaks past everybody and out of danger.
4:30 Gaven breaks through, but they call him offside. That's a questionable call.
4:32 The reporters around me in the press box are trying to figure out who Saving Jane, our post-game performer, is. The one of them who is familiar with the band is pretending he doesn't know exactly how their hit single goes.
4:33 And, out of nowhere, it's a Crew goal! Carroll sends a lofting ball just right of center, where Moffat traps it off his chest and immediately sends a long, low shot into the left side of the net. That's the kind of opportunistic shooting I was just talking about, and it comes courtesy of two new guys. Crew 1-0 Toronto.
4:37 Moreno, the most fouled man in MLS, is the victim of a vicious mugging at midfield, but no whistle blows. A minute later he remains in pain.
4:38 Look out, drum set! Toronto's corner kick ends up in a high-flying volley that comes nowhere near the net.
4:40 The Crew seems to have developed some offensive rhythm. Let's see if it sticks.
4:42 Schelotto takes a free kick from the far left. Moffat's charging header clangs off the crossbar. This kid has spunk.
4:43 The new supporters' section, which is not far at all from the old one, looks good—but not nearly as good as an entire South End filled with red Toronto paraphernalia. They brought 2,400 down here officially, but it looks like there may be more than that between the South End crowd and the many Canadians dotting
4:45 Awesome shot from the far right (was that Rogers?) ends up in a corner kick for the Crew.
4:46 Toronto fans are flooding the corner with streamers, keeping Schelotto from getting his kick off. Finally he delivers a low, powerful kick that skitters through the penalty area untouched.
4:47 Toronto's free kick goes for naught.
4:49 Marshall slides in to apprehend the Toronto attacker in questionable fashion, but the official decides against a penalty and just awards the corner kick instead. Crew fans send their own set of streamers into the corner. Finally, the corner kick ends up in a powerful volley from Brennan that looks promising but soars over the top.
4:50 Cunningham flops in the box and wins himself one penalty kick. Pour Danny O'Rourke. That is absolutely ridiculous.
4:52 They give Samuel the kick instead, and... Hesmer saves it! Then Moffat swoops in to clear the rebound. The guy is playing out of his mind.
4:53 The keeper then proceeds to punch out the ensuing corner kick. We're now in stoppage time.
4:54 ...aaaaaaand it's halftime.
5:09 After a dance routine, recognition for the OSU soccer team and a quick song from Saving Jane, we're back to the game.
5:10 I witnessed lots of antagonistic banter between locals and Canadians during halftime. Maybe the Crew brass is succeeding in manufacturing this rivalry after all.
5:11 Toronto has a corner kick. Migs and Gaven work together to clear it without much trouble.
5:12 Another Toronto corner, but this time they maintain possession and continue to attack. Cunningham tries to pull off another flop in the box, but this time it doesn't work.
5:13 The more I look around, the more I realize the stadium is pretty full except in those sections directly across from the press box, where many of the season ticket holders sit. I wonder how it would look if Toronto didn't travel so well.
5:14 Toronto fans think they scored, but the ball hit the outside of the net. It's a goal kick.
5:16 Toronto keeps the corner kicks coming! Still no goal for them, though.
5:17 Rogers lifts a would-be garbage goal off the line! That was close—so close that people up here were asking "so the entire ball has to cross the line?"
5:19 Here comes a yellow for Toronto's Edu. Cue the fans holding up their yellow cards to win free shoes from DSW. That's how you motivate the American sports fan!
5:20 The Crew keeps possession for a while, but they can't seem to get anything substantial going.
5:22 Nice team D there by Columbus. I like O'Rourke better as a defender than in his old midfield role; he can be a hardass (which he's good at) and not have to worry about shooting (which he's not so good at).
5:23 Rogers trips himself but fails to draw a flag.
5:24 The Crew supporters' clubs are loud and proud right now. Glad they're making themselves heard.
5:29 Toronto made some subs... M Kevin Harmse comes on for Hemming, while F Danny Dichio enters for Dunivant.
5:30 Schelotto's free kick from the left flank drops innocuously and without fanfare.
5:32 Wynne dribbles through just about the entire Crew roster before getting stopped just outside the box. Toronto keeps the ball but doesn't do anything with it... except possibly injure Chad Marshall. Let's hope he's OK.
5:33 He seems to be OK.
5:35 We've officially hit a lull. Luckily Toronto brought some smoke bombs to entertain us in the meantime.
5:36 Toronto decides to end the stalemate by sending a high crossing pass into the box, but Hejduk heads it out of danger.
5:38 Through a comical sequence of mishaps, the Crew ends up with a deep throw-in. Migs makes a great run into the box from the left side, but his attempted assist is intercepted and cleared.
5:40 Moreno beats the offside trap and scores! Gaven threads the needle around Velez and Moreno outruns him to deposit the ball in the bottom right corner. Excellent execution, guys. Crew 2-0 Toronto.
5:42 Interesting that both of the Crew's goals have come out of nowhere—not the product of a relentless attack, but quick flashes of brilliance in the midst of a relatively sleepy game.
5:44 Crew sub: Brad Evans enters the game for Rogers.
5:45 Gaven shows a surprising amount of speed down the right side.
5:46 Great crossing pass from new sub Evans. Moreno might have buried it had he not been hindered (illegally?) by his defender.
5:47 Crew's looking pretty solid at this late juncture. Moreno tries a worm-burner, but it doesn't surprise Toronto keeper Edwards.
5:48 Columbus fans' chant: "THIS IS OUR HOUSE!"
5:50 Schelotto waves off Evans from the corner kick. Funny stuff. His cross ends up being a decent back-door service—and it had better be after he sent the kid packing—but the Crew doesn't convert it.
5:51 Some opportunistic play from Migs wins another Crew corner kick, which sails from Schelotto's foot into Edwards' arms.
5:52 Looks like Andy Iro is going to play for the last few minutes. Schelotto will take his spot on the bench. It's defense time.
5:54 Today's attendance: 13,843.
5:55 Were into stoppage time. Toronto nearly gets one in there at the last minute, but Hesmer drops to the ground to protect his goal. He hasn't been tested much today, but anybody who stops a PK and pitches a shutout has had a good day in the net if you ask me.
5:57 Nice slide tackle from Hejduk! Playing hard 'til the final whistle... Speaking of which, that's a wrap!
Final score: Crew 2, Toronto 0.