Rocket Robin Report: Toronto FC vs Columbus Crew

Result and details of the Wednesday November 29, 2017 playoff game between  Toronto FC and Columbus Crew SC held at BMO Field in Toronto at 7:30pm. This was the second leg of the Eastern Conference Final.

24 min…TFC Victor Vazquez cornerkick from right is into box and Crew Josh Williams pushes over  TFC Drew Moor in 6 yard box while Moor jumped for header. Referee Ismail Elfath calls a Penalty kick.

25 min…TFC Victor Vazquez blasts Penalty kick low to left corner but diving goalie Zack Steffen  pushes wide of post.

59 min…TFC Jozy Altidore GOAL…TFC Sebastian Giovinco at Crew 25 yard line with Crew Jonathan Mensah grabbing his arm backheels pass. Altidore rolls ball forward to TFC Victor Vazquez at 20 yards in middle. Vazquez taps ball forward to charging Altidore who has run between three Crew players and Altidore at 12 yards even with right post runs by retreating Crew Lalas Abubaker and shoots low 7 yard shot into left corner of net with goalie guarding right post.

Final Score:…Toronto FC…1…Columbus Crew SC…0… (TFC wins two game aggregate 1-0)

Attendance was announced as a sellout of 30392. The weather was cold–hovering just below the freezing point but I didn’t get too cold. I was cheering for a goal by either team as I knew that would mean there’d be no extra time. I suspect what made last year’s MLS final unbearable was the extra time and Penalty shootout. I got through it thanks to the resin-bag handwarmers given out by a league sponsor.    I’d only heard about them before but bought some in the spring and used by first bags tonight inside my mittens but they weren’t a necessity. Last year’s Eastern final was decider against Montreal on an unseasonably mild rainy night.

Referee Ismail Elfath gave out only one Yellow card to each team plus the Penalty call for TFC. The game was more wide open than rough.

After the game the Eastern Championship trophy was presented to the TFC players with our view on the East stands blocked by the backdrop of the portable stage brought in to the West side although we could see the presentation on the video board. Fireworks were set off–everything that had not been lit off before the game started. After the presentation the players walked to the South end to celebrate with the supporters’ groups. Chris Mavinga broke from them and carried the trophy the entire length of the East stands so we had a good look at it. Toronto/MLS/Canadian soccer legend Dwayne DeRosario had brought the trophy out to the sideline before the game.

No MVP was announced over the PA system. Although Michael Bradley made a game saving save on a sliding tackle from behind on Crew Justin Meram to break up a 2 on 1 rush inside the TFC box at 20 minutes, I marked down Chris Mavinga as making more stops with flicked headers and clearances inside the TFC box.  Alex Bono earned the shutout for TFC but he didn’t have to be spectacular tonight.

Offensively TFC was not dominating and my section was complaining about their players passing the ball back to defenders and the goalie before they had the lead–so it wasn’t time wasting.

Victor Vazquez took the Penalty kick at 25 minutes. He was the player chosen to take it. I would agree as Sebastian Giovinco had missed a few this season. Vazquez shot low to the left corner just like Giovinco’s last two chances in the Supporter’s Shield winning Montreal game in the regular season’s final home game. Zack Steffan dove to push the ball wide left of the post.

Jozy Altidore had fallen a few times on his own starting at 49 minutes and it looked to be getting worse and he needed the trainer soon after. He was treated on the east side on the opposite side of the benches and returned to the game within five minutes. He was walking on the field after that and our section was chanting for Tosaint Ricketts to come in to replace him. He made a short run at 59 minutes to collect a pass and score. He collapsed again soon after and was finally replaced by midfielder Armando Cooper. Myself and the guy beside me both said to each other “Now watch him score” when we saw him stay in the game after his first treatment.

TFC had few chances after that and the Crew almost tied it a few times which would have seen them advance on the away goal rule. Best of them were 79 minutes when Federico Higuain took a cornerkick from the right that had TFC Chris Mavinga pop a header in a crowd of players at 6 yards away and Pedro Santos kept it inside the box. Justin Meram received a short tap back pass from Josh Williams and blasted a 15 yard shot well over the bar. At 86 minutes Higuain was checked on the top right of the box by Armando Cooper and went down and Michael Bradley dribbled it away but was checked off the ball by Meram at 25 yards on the far right and Meram crossed into the 6 yard box and Adam Jahn connected on a flying header on the right post and the ball was just between the legs of the charging Ola Kamara at 2 yards on the left side of the net. The next minute Crew followed up with a cornerkick from the left that had the ball knocked down and Mensah with his back to the net took a 15 yard midair kick down the middle but well over the net. 91 minutes had Harrison Afful chip the ball from 28 yards on the right into the box and goalie Alex Bono caught on the bounce stepping in front of the charging Kamara to make the grab on the right post.

TFC used one Canadian this game and that was midfielder Jonathan Osorio who started and played 80 minutes.

TFC advances to the MLS Cup for the second year in a row and will be hosting it as they have a better record than the two Western teams–Seattle and Houston. The game will be on Saturday December 9th and it will start at 4:00pm which means in theory it should be warmer than last year’s nighttime start.  On my way home I found notices that the subway line I use won’t be running that weekend–tonight’s game if it had been held last weekend instead would have resulted in the same problem.

The Crew had a good season in 2017 recovering from a ninth place finish in 2016 to finish fifth in the East. They were on a ten game unbeaten streak to finish the regular season then beat Atlanta on the road in a Penalty kick round in their wildcard round game. They then split their conference semi-final series against New York City FC but won on total games. A few months ago news broke that the Crew team owner planned on moving the club to Austin Texas (allowing that city to do an end around paying expansion fees) unless the city of Columbus built him a downtown stadium to replace the MLS’s first-built ‘Soccer Specific Stadium’. The MLS office seemed to be complacent until fans in Columbus and other cities found out and created a groundswell of support to ‘Save The Crew’. Late breaking news has the MLS announcing that larger city in Ohio, Cincinnati, made the four finalists (narrowed from twelve) to receive the next two expansion franchishes.

TFC should have a full roster for the MLS Final depending on how seriously injured Jozy Altidore is.

Our ‘souvenirs’ tonight was a pull apart ‘2017 TFC Playoffs’ roller that reminded me of a window blind.  It was less awkward that last year’s cardboard card banner. Many went unnoticed under people’s seats and created a scramble after the game by folks running down the rows picking them up. There was no sponsor’s name so I suspect that club paid for this.

This game had other simularities to the Sunday October 15th game against Montreal. Jozy Altidore scored the only goal of the game, TFC missed a first half Penalty kick, and we had one player break from the mob in the south end and carry the trophy (Supporters Shield for that game) along the East side stands so we could enjoy it. Drew Moor carried it that game.

TFC advances to the MLS Cup for the second year in a row and will be hosting it as they have a better record than the two Western teams–Seattle and Houston. The game will be on Saturday December 9th and it will start at 4:00pm which means in theory it should be warmer than last year’s nighttime start. On my way home I found notices that the subway line I use won’t be running that weekend–tonight’s game if it had been held last weekend instead would have resulted in the same problem.

TFC should have a full roster for the MLS Final depending on how seriously the injury is to Jozy Altidore.

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Robin Glover

Robin Glover

Robin has been writing about soccer in the Toronto area for message boards and his own website since the early 1990s in the days of 2400 baud modems to USENET sites. In the 2014 season he attended 76 games in various leagues that played in the GTA area. Follow Robin on Twitter and on his website

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