Playoffs, but at what cost?
Columbus Crew SC’s 2-0 victory against Toronto FC on Saturday afternoon sealed a spot in the Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs – but at great cost. Yellow cards to Kei Kamara and Federico Higuain mean they’ll miss out on a Decision Day match against D.C. United that will help determine playoff seeding.
It also means Kamara will not win the Audi Golden Boot. In a matchup pitting the two leading candidates for the award, Toronto FC forward Giovinco and Kamara, only the Italian remains in the running as the Crew SC striker finished the season even on goals (22), for now, but behind in assists (15 to 8), the first tiebreaker.
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Toronto, riding a four-match winning streak, were hoping to bolster their hopes of a home playoff date with a win, but it was the visitors who took the lead via a 40th-minute set piece.
Higuain sent a dangerous out-swinging corner kick into the heart of the area from the right side. Tony Tchani rose up to meet the delivery, knocking it down and on towards the back post, where Ethan Finlay pounced on the loose ball, sweeping it into the unguarded net.
The relative freshness of Columbus' legs – playing their first match in 14 days, compared to Toronto's less-than-72-hour turnaround – began to show at the start of the second half, with Crew SC passing around Toronto pressure, but failing to craft real chances.
Giovinco’s best scoring opportunity came via a knuckling free kick that was denied by a diving save from Steve Clark in the 62nd minute. One minute later, Kamara picked up a booking for a late challenge on Jackson that ended his regular season one game early.
Columbus twice hitting the woodwork: both times through Higuain. The first, a blast from distance tipped onto the bar by Bendik; the second, a shot from the right side of the area that struck the post.
His bad luck wouldn’t last long, as Higuain capped off the game with a departing gift in the first minute of stoppage-time, looping a glorious chip over Bendik for his seventh career goal in 10 matches against TFC.
Both teams will finish up the regular season next Sunday at 5 pm ET on Deadline Day. Toronto travel to take on their Canadian rivals, the Montreal Impact, while Columbus return home for a simultaneous match against D.C. United.