Early in 2014, everything was going the way of the Columbus Crew. The Black and Gold were able to get results - like a stoppage time goal on the road to defeat the Seattle Sounders - in nearly any circumstance.
Lady Luck has changed her tune recently. The Portland Timbers equalized in the 85th minute two weeks ago and on Saturday Toronto FC used two goals in the final 10 minutes, including a stoppage time winner, to turn at least one point into zero.
The Crew controlled much of the play in the early going with their usual dominating possession game, despite playing without playmaker Federico Higuain, who was serving a one game suspension, and central midfielder Wil Trapp, who suffered a "knee knock" and did not travel.
In the opening 10 minutes, the Black and Gold created three chances to grab the early goal, the best of which was a long range effort from winger Justin Meram that deflected off the post.
After missing on his first opportunity, Meram made his second one count in the 18th minute. After a run from his wide position to the center of the park, midfielder Ethan Finlay found Meram in the box. The attacker cut the ball away from goal and put it into the far side netting for a 1-0 lead for the visiting team.
Just two minutes later, the Reds were given the opportunity to equalize. England international Jermain Defoe, who did not play in the first meeting between these two rivals, received the ball at the top of the Crew penalty area. His first touch took the ball beyond defender Tyson Wahl, whose slight tug on Defoe's arm was enough for the referee to point to the spot.
Defoe stepped up to take the penalty kick and although Columbus goalkeeper Steve Clark got a hand on the attempt, he was unable to keep the ball out of the net.
Forward Jairo Arrieta had the best chance to give the lead back to the Black and Gold of the half when he went one v. one with the Toronto defense, creating enough space to get off a shot that went just wide of the far post.
The second half began rather lackadaisical, as neither team was able to get into a rhythm offensively.
Attacking midfielder Ben Speas, who many believed would be the replacement for the suspended Higuain, checked in for Daniel Paladini in the 61st minute and quickly made an impact.
After playing a through ball to Meram that earned a corner, Speas teed up a set piece that found the head of midfielder Agustín Viana for his first goal as a member of the Crew and a 2-1 lead in the 65th minute.
The Reds began to apply pressure, bringing on their second designated player forward in Gilberto and pushing higher up the pitch in search of an equalizer.
Gilberto's addition paid off in the 81st minute when the imposing forward capitalized on a rare mistake from center back Michael Parkhurst to get the ball to Defoe at the top of Columbus' penalty area. The clinical finisher showed his ability, beating Clark with a half volley and pulling Toronto level.
It appeared TFC was going to get a third goal in the 88th minute when a crossed ball found Gilberto. The striker used a clever flick to find former MLS MVP Dwayne De Rosario at the top of the box, but his effort was tipped over from Clark.
The Crew goalkeeper would not be so fortunate in stoppage time. After Tony Tchani committed a needless foul just to the left of Clark's 18-yard box, Daniel Lovitz' dangerous ball to the back post met the head of the charging Doneil Henry, who powered it passed Clark for a stoppage time 3-2 advantage.
There wasn't much left for the center official to do as he blew the final whistle that indicated Toronto had twice come from behind to earn the win and take home the Trillium Cup trophy.
The Black and Gold don't have much time to stew over their heartbreak with a midweek matchup. They welcome Real Salt Lake to Columbus on Wednesday night, hoping a return home will get the Crew back on track.