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What We Learned: Crew vs Toronto FC

What we learned from another home draw.

MLS: Toronto FC at Columbus Crew SC Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

Columbus Crew SC’s unbeaten streak reaches six games, but another late-game goal against caused Saturday night’s 2-2 result with Toronto FC to feel like a loss. Let’s take a look at what we learned from the game.

The Crew make successful adjustments at halftime

Columbus has been first to find the back of the net after halftime in each match of their current six-game unbeaten streak. In three of the games, the Crew scored within the first three minutes of the second half kickoff.

  • July 17th - Gyasi Zardes scores in the 47th minute to tie the game 1-1 at the Chicago Fire.
  • July 20th - David Accam tallies one in the 47th minute, which eventually was the game-winning goal in a 2-1 home victory over the Montreal Impact.
  • July 27th - Pedro Santos notches another goal, this time in the 46th minute to give the Crew a 2-1 lead at Red Bull Arena.
  • August 3rd - Gyasi Zardes bags a 65th-minute goal, which earned Columbus a 1-1 draw on the road versus the San Jose Earthquakes.
  • August 10th - Pedro Santos scores a wonder goal from long distance to tie the Hell Is Real derby at two goals apiece.
  • August 17th – Forgive me if you have heard this one before, but a beautiful goal from Santos in the 48th minute, evening up the score 1-1 against Toronto.

Coach Porter is emphatic in stating that “goals change games.” Being able to consistently score goals within minutes of any kickoff is integral to a team being successful. Whatever Porter is communicating to the Black & Gold boys at halftime seems to be working wonders.

Pedro Santos continues his team MVP season

Santos has undoubtedly been the Crew’s Most Valuable Player in 2019. In what has absolutely been his best season in Columbus, the Portuguese winger (and sometimes attacking midfielder) has accumulated nine goals, three assists, 59 shots and 69 fouls suffered.

He continued his dominant season against Toronto. He was on his A-game from the opening whistle, setting up teammates with beautiful passes and heal flicks. Santos put an exclamation point on his night by scoring a beauty of a goal, thanks to a perfectly placed long ball from Wil Trapp, which allowed an on-running Santos to hit it first time and tuck into the back of the net.

Michael Bradley was public enemy number one

The booing of former U.S. Men’s National Team captain Michael Bradley has become a ritual in recent times for Crew fans. His words in late 2017 on the Black & Gold’s potential move to Austin led to Columbus fans detesting the TFC midfielder.

“Look, on one hand you feel for the small group of loyal supporters that they have who have been here since the beginning, who continue to support the team and come out week after week. On the other hand, you can’t deny the fact that things here have really fallen behind in terms of the atmosphere in the stadium, the quality of the stadium, what it’s like to play here,” Bradley said.

“I don’t know who’s at fault for that… there’s a lot going on, and I get that – and like I said, as an outsider I don’t know what that falls on. But again, the reality is just that as the league has continued to grow and grow – and this is not the only one, but this is one of a few markets that has not kept pace.”

Apparently, such comments did not sit well with Columbus fans who fought desperately to keep the club in Central Ohio. After the final whistle Saturday night, the Crew’s most ardent supporters chanted “Bradley sucks,” and of course serenaded him with choice words when he took corner kicks on the Nordecke side of the field. The verbal abuse was so demonstrative that Wil Trapp and Josh Williams both came over to the Nordecke to ask Crew fans to stop yelling obscenities at the Toronto FC midfielder.

Soccer is a game of moments

In his postgame press conference, Porter showed ample frustration at the back-to-back home draws, both of which had the sting of a loss. The fact that Columbus ripped off nearly double the shots of its opponent in both games intensified the frustration. Porter provided insight on his thoughts on to what leads to victories, when he quipped, “This game comes down to moments in the boxes. What you want is to be in more moments then the opponent, which we were, but it’s always going to come down to making those plays.”

TFC striker Jozy Altidore was able to capitalize on his only true dangerous opportunity of the match. He headed home the game-tying goal in stoppage time, capitalizing on the one moment that he had. Porter admitted, “That’s why he’s (Altidore) one of the top American strikers ever. He had one moment. And he is going to finish that nine out of ten times.”

On the flipside, Zardes did not capitalize on his impactful moments. Porter was adamant that Zardes needs to be on the scoresheet for the Black & Gold to be successful. Every striker has stretches where they can’t seem to buy a goal, but Zardes has struggled to finish sitters. For the sake of the Crew’s remaining 2019 season, Zardes needs to come up big in those critical moments.