The Crew has always struggled at BMO Field. That didn’t necessarily change Saturday afternoon, but Columbus managed to follow a simple strategy for a 1-0 victory against Toronto FC.
“Toronto’s a great team going forward,” goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum said. “Our plan was to get one in and just kind of hang on. Getting a result here would be huge. Getting a win is very satisfying.”
And although the Crew improved to 2-0-5 in Ontario’s largest city thanks to Bernardo Anor’s goal in the 56th minute, not everything went as planned.
First, Eric Gehrig was a late entry into coach Robert Warzycha’s starting XI after center back Danny O’Rourke was forced out with an ankle injury.
Gehrig learned he was playing four hours before kickoff, but wasn’t affected by the short notice and was outstanding in his marking and cleared a number of balls out of harm’s way.
“I tried to relax and focus and not stress too much,” Gehrig said.
He won the praise of goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum, who recorded his second straight shutout with sterling command of the box.
“He’s incredible. He’s one of the hardest workers on the team,” Gruenebaum said of Gehrig. “He had a great game.”
Besides Gehrig, another unexpected occurrence was midfielder Milovan Mirosevic failing to convert a penalty kick opportunity, which was saved by Milos Kocic in the 42nd minute. Mirosevic scored his initial MLS goal last week vs. Montreal from the spot and the Chilean newcomer’s miss rattled the team.
“Psychologically, that was a huge setback,” Warzycha said.
Yet the Crew persevered despite facing a three-forward assault. They used a counterattack, started after a Milosevic steal from a slide tackle, to give Anor a chance to push the ball into the final third.
“That’s what we asked Bernardo to do all the time,” Warzycha said. “If you get the ball, go forward instead of trying to find the pass.”
After making his way into a position to pass or shoot, Anor spotted Olman Vargas on the left side at the edge of the penalty area. Anor and Vargas played a neat one-two, but a bad first touch almost nullified the scoring chance.
Fortunately, TFC couldn’t clear the ball and it came right back to Anor, who struck a rising strike past Kocic.
“It wasn’t a perfect touch at first,” Anor said, “but by continuing the play, I got the rebound and I finished it pretty well.”
And while it wasn’t the way he had planned to score, that was probably fitting as the Crew battled their way to three valuable points.