Afternoon soccer in the middle of February is usually reserved for Champions League, Yesterday, Bayern at the Emirates to face Arsenal was certainly a tasty matchup. A select few were much more focused on the games taking place in the middle of Florida. The Crew faced off against Toronto's (hundred) million dollar men in a preseason matchup.
Toronto rolled out new signings Julio Cesar, Michael Bradley, and Gilberto to take on a once again mixed lineup from the Columbus Crew. Matt Lampson got the start in goal in front of Josh Williams, trialist Patrick Slogic, Tyson Wahl, and Waylon Francis. Wil Trapp and Tony Tchani formed the backbone of an offense highlighting on the talents of Justin Meram on the left, Hector Jimenez on the right, with Federico Higuain tucked under Jairo Arrieta.
The Crew would roll to three first half goals, unfortunately one was an own goal. Higuain would drop in a 10th minute free kick. Julio Cesar waived helplessly with the form of a top class international at Josh Williams 12th minute bomb. The Crew then let Toronto back in the game with a Tyson Wahl own goal in the 14th minute.
After the five minute scoring outburst, the game settled down. The scoreline remained 2-1 as Toronto and the Crew closed out the half.
Head coach Gregg Berhalter once again chose a completely different second half lineup. He changed out every field player, only keeping Matt Lampson in goal. Toronto chose to push fitness and kept some starters in to start the second half with Bradley getting over 60 minutes of action.
Once again Lampson played in goal. Chad Barson, Kevan George, Michael Parkhurst, and Ben Sweat comprised the back line. Agustin Viana and Fifi Baiden were the two holders. Dominic Oduro and Bernardo Anor; manned the wings with Ben Speas playing centrally. Trialist Adam Bedell was the target forward.
The game quickly lost any sharpness as the Toronto starters fatigued and the Crew second half unit worked to build a rapport. The highlight turned out to be a Viana looping cross that found a sliding Badell to score the third goal for Columbus in the 62nd minute.
Much like the Malmo game, little can be taken from preseason results. The Crew beat a vastly changed Toronto team still trying to integrate a lot of pieces and it showed. There were some fine individual performances from the Crew with Higuain leading the way, but ultimately Berhalter chose to experiment. He's still finding the right pieces that fit in his possession based 4-2-3-1 style.
The Crew are back on the field on Saturday as they face the Philadelphia Union and it will be interesting to see if Berhalter's approach will change. With little over two weeks until the opening match against D.C. United, the staff will have to identify starters and build game sharpness.