At first glance this year’s Eastern Conference Finals may not have the sexy buzz that the all-Canadian matchup did last year. For those that did not watch the game, the 0-0 result may further prove that point, but for those that did watch, we know there is a different story. First of all, it is extremely unfair to compare this conference final to the one versus Montreal last year as most, if not all series, can compare to that one. But this matchup has it’s own set of stories and its own set of villains as well. Don’t forget that Toronto FC also has a history with their 2017 opponent. Before the 401 Rivalry with the Montreal Impact, there was the Columbus Crew.
Yes, there is no love lost between TFC and the Crew, our Trillium Cup adversary (I still have no idea what that is). We have had very poor results in Columbus both on and off the field. If you recall there was an incident in 2009 as opposing fans were ushered into the same area. There was a few scuffles, a few arrests and plenty of blame thrown at both fans and security. Safe to say we don’t like them very much and I’m quite sure the feeling is mutual… is it too soon bring up that 5-0 thrashing earlier this year? I don’t think so, let’s take a look back at highlights from that game earlier this year.
Coming into the first match, TFC are fighting to make history. They want to be the first Canadian team to ever win the MLS Cup. Their path was made very difficult as both Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore missed this first game due to suspension. There was a chance Altidore’s red card would be appealed, but that fell short and Toronto FC played without 42% of their offensive output.
The Crew on the other hand are a bit of surprise to make it this far after dispatching second seed New York City FC 4-3 on aggregate. They are not looking to make history, but they are fighting not to be history. Anthony Precourt, the Columbus Crew owner, is persona non grata as he is trying and succeeding, in moving the team to Austin. Fans and city officials have been trying to keep the team, but it appears that Precourt and the MLS are moving forward with the move in 2018.
As sporting fans we are taught to dislike, if not outright hate our opponents especially if they are a rival as the Crew are. But it will be a huge loss for the city and a big shame for MLS should Columbus lose their team. Therefore we should all be very proud of the TFC fans who made the away game trip and helped chant SAVE THE CREW in unison with the hometown fans. Some things are bigger than the game itself. Not many mind you, but some.
— Kristian Jack (@KristianJack) November 22, 2017
The on field game was a tactical battle with not much offensive power. Without two of its designated players, the Reds went to what looked like a 5-3-2 formation including having Victor Vasquez and Tosaint Ricketts up front. What was a little unusual was having both Nicolas Hasler and Steven Beitashour starting as they both play the same position. Vanney had mentioned before the game that this arrangement allowed his team some flexibility to counteract anything that the Crew could throw at them.
TFC did not have control of the ball as much as they normally do, nor did they have the large number of great scoring chances that we have been accustomed to seeing. As the game wore on though, the importance was put on not giving up a goal, rather than scoring one. Although, I am not sure if it was the pressure or the cold or the fact that they were tired but Toronto was uncharacteristically giving up the ball foolishly in their own end. Errant passes and poor clearances led to the last ten minutes being way to tense then it should have been. Keeper Alex Bono saved the game again on stopping a point blank shot from six yards out at the end of the game, not to mention breaking up a break away a little earlier. Thankfully the Crew were not at their best offensively and could not capitalize on all those mistakes.
Game 2 will be at BMO field on Wednesday, November 29th and it should be a much different affair. With all the firepower back in the lineup and playing in front of their home crowd, look for TFC to come out and prove why they are the best team in the league. My early prediction is that TFC will come through with a 3-1 victory and another birth in the MLS Cup. Let’s hope for that and let’s also #SaveTheCrew!
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