There’s no doubt Columbus Crew SC wavered in the second half vs. Toronto FC, and Head Coach Caleb Porter gave the Reds, who have made it to MLS Cup in three of the past four years, proper credit before and after the match.
Still, as Porter said, one bad half doesn’t discredit the belief he has in this team, a group that still leads the Supporters’ Shield race with 30 points and is poised to secure an MLS Cup Playoffs spot within the coming weeks.
“I have a very good team. That didn't change in one bad half,” Porter said following Sunday’s 3-1 loss to Toronto. “Sometimes in football, you have a bad half. Sometimes you're playing a really good team that, like I said, raises their level and we just don't cope with it.”
As cliche as it is, it really was the tale of two halves on Sunday, with Columbus outshooting TFC, 8-1, and winning nearly 53 percent of duels in the opening 45 minutes.
Up 1-0 going into the halftime break, Porter mentioned how the emphasis would continue to be on forcing Toronto into a defensive low-block, but it was the opposite in the latter 45 minutes.
In the second half, Columbus was outshot 9-2 and out-possessed by nearly 20 percent as the Black & Gold conceded three successive goals – more than half of what they've conceded all season – in just over 30 minutes.
Offensively, Columbus’s three shots on goal marked the club’s lowest total for a road match since the Crew's 0-0 draw at FC Cincinnati on Aug. 30. Notably, the team's ensuing results included a 1-0 win against fellow Eastern Conference contender Philadelphia on Sept. 2 and a 3-0 win against Cincinnati on Sept. 6.
The point, as Porter alluded to, is that it’s now up to the Crew to decided whether Sunday’s result will be a roadblock or a stepping stone going into a tough challenge in FC Dallas on Saturday.
“We've got three days to prepare for Dallas, and we have to use [Sunday’s match] as more of a stepping stone, not a stumbling block,” Porter said during his post-match availability.
“It can't rattle us, it can't get us now overthinking things, we can't overreact. But we definitely need to improve through this, because if we want to do what we want to do, we have to beat teams like Toronto. In good teams, you're going to see a response, they're going to raise their level – and you have to be able to cope with that.”
Having conceded just five goals all year, defender Jonathan Mensah was disheartened with the collective effort and said that as the team captain, he is taking it upon himself to lead the group going forward.
“We need to watch film, we need to be better and show that we can do better than we did in the second half. So, this is a collective loss,” Mensah said.
“Obviously, it’s tough, but individually, we need to raise it also. Being the captain, I need to do better because the whole season, we’ve given up just five goals, so we cannot give up three goals in just one half. We will go back to the training grounds and do better.”
The Crew are 2-0-2 against Dallas dating back to April 2, 2016, and will have five days to prepare before departing for Frisco, Texas to face an FCD side that currently stands tied for third in the Western Conference with a record of 5-3-5 (20 pts.).
Kickoff is slated for 8:30 p.m. ET.