It was supposed to be a great showdown between two of the hotter teams in MLS. The first-place Columbus Crew against a surging Toronto FC in front of a sold-out crowd at BMO Field.
Wind, rough tackling, diving, bad officiating and worse finishing turned the highly-anticipated encounter into an ugly one. The Crew appeared to bunker in for the tie rather than attack like the high-flying team they have been all season while TFC put on a clinic on how not to finish chances. The result was zero goals and not much to cheer about.
SBI Correspondents Duane Rollins and Rich Fidler took in the action and share their views on the match with us:
Heightened security, ugly soccer spoil a sunny day in Toronto
By DUANE ROLLINS
The first thing you noticed Saturday was the police. They were everywhere. On the streets around BMO Field, in the commuter train tunnel and, especially, in the stadium. It would have been a good day to rob a bank in Toronto because all the cops were watching soccer.
Some recent high profile, if over stated, incidents at and immediately after TFC games has caused some to start to hyperbolically utter the H-word—hooligans—to describe the Toronto fan base.
Somehow a single, middle-age drunk running to center field in the dying moments of the Red Bulls game, coupled with the images of some tailgating fans urinating on a fence in Columbus, has caused some to make the jump to organized violence under the guise of sport.
So, with 15-days to prepare for the return of the BMO rowdies, Toronto’s finest had plenty of time to coordinate their response.
Hopefully the boys in blue enjoyed the match because they didn’t have much to do otherwise. Something they should have realized if they had ever been to a game before.
What those attempting to channel their inner Danny Dyer don’t realize is that the Toronto fan is not interested in playing the lead role on Real Football Factories—the North American edition. What’s happening in Toronto isn’t the beginnings of firm culture, but rather the development of a true community. The official slogan of Toronto is All for One, but unlike most marketing driven branding exercises the slogan has real meaning. Each week at BMO, Celtic fans stand shoulder to shoulder with Rangers fans united under the color of red. The Old World crap has been left behind. There is no interest is renewing it.
But still there are plenty of chicken Little’s hell-bent on screaming from the rooftops about the "problem" in Toronto. About all they are accomplishing is to make life more difficult for those in supporters sections everywhere to bring the type of energy and enthusiasm that will sell this sport to the masses far more than any two-for-one hot dog family night ever well.
Certainly, the extra "precaution" Saturday made enjoying the action of the pitch more difficult. It’s hard to get too excited by a 0-0 draw when you are being asked to show your ticket stub for the sixth time.
There are games that have scoreless written all over them and last week was one. From the get-go it was clear that Columbus was playing for the draw and that a nasty, swirling wind was acting as its 12th man in that effort. Even the streamers were flying straight back into the thrower’s face.
Although the positive spin is that Toronto remains undefeated at home, having only surrendered a single goal, the ugly truth is that the Reds still struggle to score. The conditions were difficult and the opponent worthy Saturday, but soccer is a simple game when you break it down—put the ball in the back of the net. Toronto isn’t doing that near enough and it will need to address the shortcoming if it is to truly contend in 2008.
Short-handed Crew take a point at windy and hostile BMO Field
By RICH FIDLER
The Columbus Crew have once again demonstrated they are the league’s best with a fantastic frustrating match that ended in a scoreless draw at BMO Field in Toronto.
The Crew headed north of the border without starting midfielder Adam Moffat and left-back Gino Padula, instead they were replaced by utility-man Brad Evans and the ageless swan, Ezra Hendrickson. It was a dicey gamble to put Hendrickson out on the wing in the defense against speedy Rohan Rickets and former French international Lauren Robert. Although there were a few moments of trepidation, including a Robert blast that went off the post, the elder statesmen on the Crew roster held his own.
Guillermo Barros Schelotto was the one that provided the frustration on the evening, whether it was the TFC defense or center official Kevin Stott, the Argentinean legend had a few choice words for everyone on the night. His theatrics wore so thin, that after the game it was all poor TFC head coach John Carver could talk about. Evidently the Argentine got just what he wanted, a frustrated head coach who said he’d consider going back to England – which would probably be a good thing for the TFC fans – so by all means John please stay and grace us with your stellar coaching mind.
The game was one of the ugliest in the young season. The 30 mile an hour gusts of wind that ripped through BMO certainly didn’t help things. Long balls were constantly long, and balls kept low to avoid the wind were found skipping across the plastic turf. When is the league going to stand up and ask these teams that spend millions of dollars on a new stadium to stick with the real thing. They do it in Austria, Holland and Germany – why is it so hard to do it in Toronto? If you need a good grounds-keeper, "the" Ohio State University has one hell of a program – I am sure you could find someone that’ll take a few loonies and move north.
The Trillium Cup, yea that’s right this rivalry has a cup, hasn’t been wrapped up by the Crew and it’ll take a another visit to BMO Field before the inaugural winner can be crowned. The Crew will come back to Toronto in mid-September just in time to welcome back Robbie Rogers and Eddie Gaven from their trip to Beijing with the gold medal draped around their neck (okay, okay – I know they aren’t going to beat Messi and Argentina or Pato and Brazil). It should be a good test for two teams that continue to improve and look to lead the way in a very strong Eastern conference. Well, except for DC United, who would have trouble against the Crew affiliate Mid-Michigan Bucks.
The Crew get to head back home on Saturday after two straight on the road where they picked up four of a possible six to keep their lead at the top of the league. In the way for Columbus will be the New England Revolution, another team full of hacking professionals like Jay Heaps.