Columbus Crew SC‘s 2017 campaign appears to be taking on water.
The Black and Gold were run off the BMO Field pitch in a 5-0 rout at the hands of Toronto FC. Victor Vazquez tallied his first two-goal outing of the season, with Tosaint Ricketts, Jonathan Osorio and Jordan Hamilton adding one apiece.
The result handed the Trillium Cup to Toronto FC for the second straight year after Crew SC won it in six of the first eight years it was contested. It also goes down as the most lopsided MLS loss in club history as well as the worst in Gregg Berhalter’s now four-year tenure in charge.
— Matt Bernhardt (@bernhardtsoccer) May 27, 2017
Columbus Crew SC Suffers Worst Loss of Gregg Berhalter Era in Trillium Cup Rout
Berhalter made a significant formational switch for the game. It was announced as a flat 4-4-2 but played more like a 4-1-4-1 on the field with Ola Kamara reprising his point striker role up top.
The midfield consisted of Justin Meram and Federico Higuain acting as central playmakers while Kekuta Manneh and rookie Niko Hansen played wide. Manneh made his third consecutive start while Hansen also made an appearance in the starting XI for the third time in 2017.
Wil Trapp occupied a lone defensive midfield spot in front of the back four. It marked a departure from the double pivot Crew SC normally plays. But with Artur on the bench and Mohammed Abu not in the squad altogether, the change was necessary.
Defensively, Waylon Francis started for the fifth time this season at left back. And Harrison Afful returned to the lineup out on the right after missing the last four games due to family reasons. Jonathan Mensah and Nicolai Naess partnered in central defense.
It didn’t take long for Crew SC to find themselves on the back foot. Five minutes in, Tosaint Ricketts received the ball in space and dribbled the ball towards goal. Mensah attempted to stick with him, but Ricketts’ speed on the ball proved too much. He then upended Ricketts in the box, prompting referee Drew Fischer to point to the spot.
Mensah received only a yellow card for the infraction. However, the case could be made he denied Ricketts’ an obvious goal-scoring opportunity which would’ve warranted a red. Nevertheless, Vazquez stepped up and drove the ball past Columbus goalkeeper Zack Steffen to make it 1-0 Toronto.
After conceding, Crew SC spent a better portion of the first half dominating the ball in search of an equalizer. They nearly did so in the 17th minute when Hansen dribbled towards goal and fired a shot at TFC netminder Alex Bono. But the shot caromed off the right post.
Overall, Columbus enjoyed nearly 61 percent possession in the first 45 minutes. TFC appeared content to sit deep, absorb pressure and look for opportunities in transition. With less than ten minutes left in the half, such a scoring chance presented itself.
It came via a poor pass from Francis to Trapp, who then lost the ball to Ben Spencer about 25 yards away from goal. He then distributed it out wide to left wing back Justin Morrow. The Cleveland native took a few touches towards the Columbus goal, then blasted it past Steffen near post to double the TFC lead.
It was a seminal moment for Spencer, notching an assist in his first ever appearance for the club.
After the goal came some controversy. Berhalter immediately made a substitution, taking off Meram in place of Artur. Though the move appeared to be tactical in nature, giving Columbus added cover in front of the back four, Meram was visibly unhappy about it. He walked by his manager without acknowledging him after Berhalter offered a hand shake.
Things didn’t get much better for the visiting club from Central Ohio in the second half. 13 minutes in, Mensah made another defensive mistake in committing a foul just outside the 18. Vazquez, who converted from the spot earlier, took advantage. His low curling shot went underneath the Crew SC wall and past Steffen’s left to complete his brace.
With Crew SC now down three, Berhalter essentially threw in the towel. He took off Higuain for Adam Jahn in the 65th minute, followed by Ethan Finlay for Kamara three minutes later. The two players have a combined one goal between them this year, compared to 11 for Higuain and Kamara. But with the result pretty much out of reach, the move seemed prudent considering Columbus plays midweek.
The lack of attacking punch was fairly evident the rest of the way. Crew SC registered a mere three shots on goal the rest of the way, including two from Jahn which were off target.
TFC added two more goals to turn this contest into a bloodbath. Both tallies came from second half subs. Jonathan Osorio, who came in for Vazquez in the 68th minute, made it 4-0 18 minutes later. And who else but Mensah shared culpability in the goal as he got caught flat-footed as Jordan Hamilton, who assisted on the goal, dribbled at him.
The Reds knocked in one more for good measure in the third minute of stoppage time. This time, Hamilton turned from provider to goal-scorer. The 60th minute sub in place of Spencer headed in a cross from Raheem Edwards to put the cherry on top of a cakewalk over a reeling Crew SC squad.
Perhaps the most glaring stat of the game was the fact that Columbus and Toronto both took 11 total shots. However, seven of TFC’s were on target while Crew SC registered a goose egg in that category. In short, ineptitude abounded on both ends of the field with the club facing more questions than answers at this point.
The Black and Gold face a short turnaround for the second time this month. After a Saturday-Wednesday stretch of matches in early May, the club faces a Friday-Wednesday one to close out the month. This time, Columbus welcomes the Seattle Sounders to town for a midweek clash that kicks off at 7:30 PM ET.
Photo credit: Columbus Crew SC Communications