TFC opens MLS Cup defence with a thud, losing 2-0 to Crew in season opener
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TORONTO — Prior to its opening match of the 2018 Major League Soccer campaign, Toronto FC held a ceremony to celebrate a season in which it won the MLS Cup, Supporter's Shield and the Canadian Championship.
After dropping a 2-0 decision to the visiting Columbus Crew on Saturday, Sebastian Giovinco said its time to stop living in the past.
"At the beginning it was not in a good way; we continued show the trophy, we continued to think about what happened last year," the star Toronto striker said as he blamed the loss on a poor team mentality. "I think, for me, this is no good.
"I think we have to change the mentality. We don't have to think about last year. We have to think about this year, and this year is more difficult."
Federico Higuain scored the winning goal and Gyasi Zardes had the other while Zack Steffen made two saves to help provide the clean sheet for Columbus (1-0-0).
Higuain one-timed a Milton Valenzuela cross past a diving Alex Bono in the 44th minute. Bono dove to get his hand on the shot, but couldn't get enough to keep it out. Higuain now has 49 goals and 49 assists in 150 career MLS appearances.
"We had some chances and I thought we could've been up earlier in the game so it was nice to go into halftime with the lead," said Columbus coach Gregg Berhalter. "I think the guys got confidence from that and it showed from the start of the second half as well. We came out confident."
Bono finished with two saves in the loss.
Toronto (0-1-0), which lost just once at BMO Field all of the last regular season, dropped to 4-5-6 against Columbus all-time at home.
The win gave Columbus a measure of revenge. It was the Reds who ended the Crew's 2017 season advancing 1-0 on aggregate in the Eastern Conference final before getting past Seattle in the MLS Cup. TFC also took two of three regular-season meetings between the teams.
"I'm not over the moon disappointed because I think there's a lot of information that is useable for me and us as a team coming out of this going into a series where we've got to be a little bit sharper than we were today, for sure," said Toronto coach Greg Vanney as the team prepares for the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals.
Zardes doubled the Crew lead just a minute into the second half, getting his foot on a Pedro Santos through ball and putting it past Bono. It was Zardes' first goal as a member of the Crew after being acquired from the L.A. Galaxy in the off-season.
"We gave away bad goals at bad times and you put yourself behind the eight ball in a big way on a difficult day," said Reds captain Michael Bradley. "I thought our response after going down 2-0 was excellent."
Victor Vazquez left the game in the 53rd minute due to what Vanney described as a lower back injury.
The Reds had a couple excellent chances to cut into Columbus' lead in half in the 65th minute.
Giovinco's left-footed shot from a Bradley feed from outside the area went off the post. Then Jozy Altidore had excellent chance off an Auro cross, but Zardes was there to block the shot off his face keeping the Reds off the board.
In the 78th minute Ager Aketxe, making his Reds MLS debut, had his shot hit the top of the crossbar.
Notes: Toronto continues CONCACAF Champions League play on Wednesday when they play host to Mexican side Tigres in the quarterfinals at BMO Field. … The Reds return to MLS action on March 17 against the Montreal Impact.