For the first time under Gregg Berhalter, the Crew was left with the taste of defeat following Saturday's 2-0 loss to Toronto FC in the first leg of the Trillium Cup, presented by Scotts.
A sluggish first half saw U.S. Men's National Team star Michael Bradley sneak through the Black & Gold backline and power a tight-angled shot past 'keeper Steve Clark. While the Crew came out more focused after halftime, it was unable to find an equalizer before Issey Nakajima-Farran doubled the Reds' lead in the 85th minute.
After the match, Berhalter rued the sloppy performance to open the match.
"We had a horrendous start to the game," he explained "It was sloppy in every sense of the word. Our defending, our ball possession, our aggressiveness in our ball movements and we paid for it."
"I attribute this loss to two things: Bad start to the game and a very well organized Toronto FC."
Despite the Crew's first defeat, Berhalter remained positive with his players, just as he's done since his hire in November.
"The positivity continued," winger Ethan Finlay said of the Sporting Director and Head Coach. "He knows our potential. Obviously, the first 20-25 minutes were not good. We came out flat, they scored a goal. It changed the game for us. I think in the future, we'll start off controlling possession like we did in the second half and we'll be fine."
Saturday marked just the third loss in 20 meetings with Toronto FC since the Reds joined MLS in 2007. The defeat, coupled with Toronto's additions of World Class talents in Bradley, Jermain Defoe and Julio Cesar have added a new chapter to the yearly battle for the Trillium Cup.
"Without a doubt [the loss intensifies the rivalry]," said Finlay. "We relish the opportunity to play against the best in the League and Toronto is a team that came out and spent $100 million in the offseason. We have to know we're up for a fight in the Eastern Conference and for the Trillium Cup with two more legs to go."
Added midfielder Wil Trapp: "I'd say [it feels more like a rivalry]. They came into our home field and beat us. That's unacceptable."
The Crew travels to San Jose for a Sunday clash with the Earthquakes next week [3:00 p.m. ET / Time Warner Cable SportsChannel].