July 14th, 2024

Columbus Crew cruise to 4-0 win, hand slumping Toronto FC a sixth straight loss


By The Canadian Press on July 6, 2024.

Toronto FC forward Federico Bernardeschi (10) chases down a ball during the second half of their MLS soccer match against Orlando City SC in Toronto, Wednesday, July 3, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston

COLUMBUS, Ga. – Toronto FC trailed Columbus 1-0 at halftime Saturday, leaving coach John Herdman a glimmer of hope that his struggling side could hold on until Italian star Lorenzo Insigne, nursing sore ribs, could come on at the 60-minute mark and spark a comeback.

Instead the Major League Soccer champions doubled their lead seven minutes into the second half and added goals four minutes apart late in the game for a resounding 4-0 win that sent an undermanned Toronto side to its sixth straight loss.

Herdman was subdued but less emotional than after previous defeats. He was also realistic.

“The fight, the commitment’s there. “¦ But when it comes down at times just to the (Toronto) quality versus (the opposition) quality, we get found out,” he said.

Columbus has oodles of quality with five players headed to the MLS all-star game, which it is hosting later this month. And two of them were on target Saturday with Diego Rossi recording a goal and two assists and Cucho Hernandez scoring a goal and setting up another.

Christian Ramirez also had a goal and an assist with Canadian wingback Mo Farsi also scoring for the Crew, who had 58.7 per cent possession and outshot Toronto 11-7 (6-2 in shots on target).

Columbus (11-3-6) has won four straight, outscoring the opposition 15-1, and eight of its last nine league games by a 27-7 margin. It has lost just one of its last 22 regular-season home matches (15-1-6).

In contrast, Toronto (7-13-3) is now winless in nine games (0-7-2) and has just one victory in its last 12 league outings (1-9-2). TFC’s last league win was May 18, a 5-1 decision over visiting CF Montreal.

Toronto, which has not won in the Ohio capital since May 2017, has been outscored 17-4 during the current losing streak.

After picking up 10 of a possible 15 points from its first five games of the campaign (3-1-1), Herdman’s team has collected just 14 of a possible 54 in the 18 games since (4-12-2).

In Toronto’s defence, the team is missing some key pieces with captain Jonathan Osorio and wingback Richie Laryea at Copa America with Canada. Hard-nosed Honduran defensive midfielder Deybi Flores was also missing Saturday, suspended for yellow card accumulation, with wingback Raoul Petretta shifting over to fill the gap.

Midfielder Alonso Coello and wingback Tyrese Spicer are out injured.

In contrast, Columbus was only without forward Jacen Russell-Rowe, also away with Canada, and injured backup goalkeeper Evan Bush.

Herdman, looking for help when the secondary transfer window opens July 18, believes reinforcements will do the trick.

“Our time will come. It’ll turn,” he said.

“You look at the reality of the squad depth, we’re thin. We’re pushing guys across many games. Not much opportunity for rotation,” he added. “And if we fall behind in a game like tonight against a good team, it’s going to be an uphill battle.

“But I thought they did battle. And that’s important.”

Hernandez put Columbus ahead in the 15th minute, rising above Derrick Etienne Jr. to head home a Rossi corner for his 11th goal of the season. It was the seventh goal in six games for the Colombian forward.

The goal came three minutes after Toronto defender Kevin Long put the ball in the Columbus net, heading home a Federico Bernardeschi corner, only to have the play blown dead by referee Ted Unkel for the corner bending into touch en route to the goal.

Hernandez and Rossi hit the repeat button off a corner in the 29th minute. But the goal was disallowed after video review for a pick play on Etienne, who was blocked by Columbus’s Steven Moreira from marking Hernandez on his run.

Ramirez doubled the lead in the 52nd minute, taking a pass from Hernandez though a static Toronto defence before swivelling and firing a shot that deflected in off a defender for his fifth of the season.

The pain grew in the 81st minute as TFC’s defence was breached too easily again. Ramirez found Rossi in the penalty box and he headed the ball over to an unmarked Farsi to head home. The Toronto defence was carved open in the 85th on a counterattack with three defenders comically failing to clear the ball, leaving Rossi to knock it home.

Bernardeschi captained Toronto with Insigne on the bench until the 60th minute.

Long, back from suspension, and fellow defender Shane O’Neill slotted in the TFC lineup, as did wingback Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty, who delivered some dangerous crosses.

Toronto’s current state was summed up early in the second half when the ball rolled into touch where Herdman was stationed in the coaching box. Herdman bent down to retrieve it, only to see it go though his legs, to the delight of the fans behind him.

UP NEXT

Toronto’s next game is Wednesday at CPL champion Forge FC in the first leg of their Canadian Championship semifinal.

Columbus visits Western Conference-leading Los Angeles FC on Saturday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 6, 2024.

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