Toronto FC scored first against Columbus Crew SC on Saturday night in Ohio, but were forced to settle for a 2-2 draw on the night.
Jonathan Osorio struck from range in the 42nd minute, only for Pedro Santos to respond shortly after the restart. David Accam netted a second for the home side in the 82nd minute when he surged up the right and beat Quentin Westberg with a low strike, but Jozy Altidore levelled in the final minute of regulation with a powerful header, ensuring the points would be shared.
“[It's] good to take a point,” said Greg Vanney post-match. “We had a decent first half, there were just a couple of things that we needed to talk through. They end up getting a goal. So going from a 1-0 lead at half-time where you have to be solid pretty quickly to 1-1. Frustration hit because it was so quick in the second half.”
“Every team adapts in the second half, do stuff a little differently,” continued Vanney. “We didn't do a great job of managing that and they were creating chances. We needed to plug up some of the holes, get back in control, get some possession. And then they scored again, so we readjusted again. A great run and ball from Auro to Jozy in front of goal. Probably the first time all night that we got cross actually in front of the goal.
“Proud we stuck with it to the end,” added Vanney. “Were able to get a draw out of it.”
As a tight first half drew to an end, space opened up for Osorio in the middle of the park after Altidore played in-field to him from the left. Osorio picked out the bottom right-corner of goal when the Crew SC back-line failed to step to him – it was his fourth goal of the campaign.
“It was a good goal,” said Osorio. “More than anything I’m just happy to help the team. It doesn’t matter who scores the goals. It’s been tough for me this year physically, but today I felt good. It’s too bad we couldn’t walk away with three points.”
Forced to bring off Justin Morrow for Richie Laryea at half-time, Toronto were stung inside of three minutes when Wil Trapp's long-ball was met by Santos on the volley, bounding past Westberg to level.
“Anytime you lose the lead in the beginning of the second half it’s hard, it’s hard to come back from,” said Osorio. “But, credit to us, we kept fighting and we did get an equalizer to get a point out of it, but I think if we look at the bigger picture it feels more like two points dropped.”
Vanney was forced into another substitution shortly before the hour-mark with Nick DeLeon 'drained', bringing on Marky Delgado. Still, Columbus were in the ascendancy, requiring yet more defensive adjustment and meaning that neither of the recently-arrived TAM wingers, Nicolas Benezet or Erickson Gallardo, would see action.
“They’re both guys that I really expected to play tonight, but neither of them is a defensive-minded player,” explained Vanney. “In the second half, we needed to plug holes. Gyasi [Zardes] was getting chances and we needed to have a solution.”
“If we were to have been more patient with the ball, and we would have been setting up a little better to get our attackers involved in the game, then for me it would have been the right situation for Gallardo or Benezet,” continued Vanney. “I had every intention for those guys to play tonight, but then when you start weighing out how the game was looking and going, we needed something different.”
Still Columbus would find the go-ahead when the speedster Accam broke up the flank and beat Westberg with a low shot in the closing stages.
Cue Altidore, who got on the end of a lovely cross from Auro to score his tenth of the season after the Brazilian and Delgado worked down the right-side of the Columbus box in the 90th minute.
“Jozy can do anything he wants on the field,” said Vanney. “He has enough physical presence and technique to do whatever he wants. The key is getting him the ball, finding him in the right places, running off of him. The key is that we get numbers, so that we can find him in situations that are advantageous for him. We've got to put crosses in front of the box like Auro did to give ourselves a chance to get on the end of them. As a group we just have to keep working and adapting through the game.”
A point saved, still felt like points dropped in the end.
“We needed more,” said Michael Bradley. “Played a pretty good first half, came in 1-0, and obviously the beginning of the second half lets us down. The response was good, kept at it, important to get back to 2-2. Every point could be decisive, we know that. But there is disappointment for the way that we ultimately threw away a good first half and then had to chase at the end just to take a point.”
Lamented Altidore: “Second half was our Achilles heel.”
“The first two minutes wasn’t good enough,” continued the striker. “The fact that we stayed in the game, being able to get the goal at the end, was huge and it sets up for another huge game with a team directly in front of us.”
“And they’re coming to Toronto,” he added. “So we have to make it a difficult place for them to play.”
With both Orlando City SC and the Montreal Impact drawing elsewhere, the three sides remain level on points in the battle for the final spot in the Eastern Conference.
And with Rivalry Week ahead, the Impact come to BMO Field on Saturday.
Though disappointed, belief remains unshaken.
“Of course. How can you not? How can you not look around this locker room and believe that you’re a playoff team?” responded Osorio. “But it’s one thing believing in it and saying it, and it’s another thing showing it.”
“We have to show it on the field,” demanded Osorio. “That’s the last thing we have to do. We have to realize we have a big chance. If we turn that switch, a lot of things can happen for this club.”