Under a dreary and cloudy sky, the defending MLS champions, the Columbus Crew, took to the turf for their home opener against the Toronto Football Club. The mid-afternoon Saturday game, attended by 8,000+ Crew fans and 2000+ Toronto fans, was one of both opportunities and missed opportunities. Prior to the start, several plaques were unveiled, ranging from Fan Support awards to the MLS 2008 Championship plaque. It was nice to see such sportsmanship from the Toronto FC fans, as they seemed to appreciate the hard work that the Crew did to get these awards.
As the first of three games between these two clubs, everybody expected Saturday’s game to be a rip-roaring and exciting match up. The first 30 minutes, however, were far from that expectation. This first third of the game was characterized by missed passes, bad team play, and a general lazy, and sluggish, attitude. Both clubs were not able to control the ball, pass well, or even create many scoring opportunities. It seemed as though the defense, particularly Toronto’s Sam Cronin, who got his first start ever, was running the game.
That all changed, however, when in the 30th minute Toronto’s Kevin Harmse was called for a hand ball in the box. The Crew’s captain, Guillermo Barros Schelotto, stepped up, aimed for the left corner, and drove the ball above Toronto’s goalie, Stefan Frei. This was Schelotto’s second goal of the year, and there have been only two games so far! The 1-0 lead by the Crew fired up the supporters, and especially the team. Though they got several great opportunities, the best came in the 37th minute as several hard shots were taken on Toronto’s goal. Though a few were off target, one careened off of the post and the follow up was saved, seemingly impossibly, by Frei. During this save, however, Frei hurt his back; during halftime, Toronto was forced to sub in goalie Greg Sutton, who himself is injured with a dislocated finger, as Frei was too hurt to continue.