Columbus Crew SC faced a stern test with a retooled Toronto FC team coming to MAPFRE Stadium, but a controversial call turned the balance of the game. The additions of Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore promised to supercharge an offense that already was able to score goals. Corralling the retooled Reds offense got a little harder as Columbus had to replace key midfielder Tony Tchani with new signing Mohammed Saied. It didn't matter as Saied impressed, a red card changed the balance of the game, and goals from Kai Kamara and Justin Meram ensured Crew SC finished the evening with a win.
The controversy came just before halftime. Ethan Finlay picked up the ball in the final third with two Toronto FC defenders trailing. Finlay put the ball into touch, but Justin Morrow slid in for a tackle 20 yards from the Reds goal, clipping . Referee David Gantar immediately called a foul and determined it was a denial of a goal scoring opportunity and sent off Morrow. Despite the protests from half the Toronto team, Columbus would play up a man for a half.
The red card tipped a game that had been evenly matched in the first half. Both sides had chances to open the scoring throughout the half. Kamara would nearly open the score in the 7th minute as he dug out a Finlay pass and shot from point blank range into Bendik. Finlay would also test Bendik midway through the first half. Justin Meram's 30th minute shot again forced Bendik to save another Crew SC shot.
The Toronto counterattack worked well in the first half with Giovinco driving into space and testing the Crew SC back line. The best chance came when Benoit Cheyrou would fire in a 16 yard shot that forced a Steve Clark save. Columbus cleared the resulting corner kick.
Columbus worked to turn the 2nd half man advantage into goals, and the breakthrough would come in the 57th minute. Finlay would get into space on the right side of the 18 yard box and whip in a right sided cross. Meram crashed the box late and fired a header past a stranded Joe Bendik for the opener. Crew SC had been turning up the pressure after coming out slow after halftime and the pressure paid off.
The goal would open up a compact Toronto team and Crew SC would take advantage and put the game further out of reach just four minutes later. The move started with Wil Trapp sending a diagonal pass to Waylon Francis stationed wide left. While Toronto attempted to cover the switch, he sent in a cross that Kamara was able to clip past Bendik to make it 2-0 and all but seal the win.
Columbus would put a stranglehold on the game with tidy passing and sharp ball rotation. Toronto would only get three shots after the Crew SC insurance goal in the 61st minute. Only Collen Warner's close range shot that dribbled past the post late in stoppage time caused the home team any trouble.
It's true that Crew SC's job was made easier by the controversial red card, but lesser teams may not have taken advantage. The Black and Gold took about 10 minutes in the second half to find the right tempo, but then they took hold of the game, scored a couple goals, and earned three points. Seeing an opportunity, this team took it. That's the kind of efficiency that good teams have.