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TFC and Crew in stalemate

Posted on 18 May 2008 by Scott Ferguson

MLS leaders Columbus Crew stole a 0-0 draw from BMO Field on Saturday afternoon, preserving both their spot at the top of the standings and Toronto FC’s unbeaten home record in 2008.

TFC head coach John Carver named an unchanged squad from Red Bull New York’s visit a fortnight ago, with Danny Dichio supported in the attack by the attacking midfield trident of Amado Guevara, Laurent Robert and Rohan Ricketts.

The only obvious change was the switch of Robert and Ricketts, with each attacking from their opposite wing: Ricketts found himself marauding down the left flank while Robert played deeper on the right.

American internationals Maurice Edu and Marvell Wynne continued their own runs in the TFC first team ahead of a trip to Beijing with the U.S. Olympic team.

The sun was shining on Lake Ontario as Toronto started the stronger of the two sides. Danny Dichio found Amado Guevara with a lay-off in the fifth minute with the Honduran lashing an acrobatic volley at Will Hesmer’s goal, but the shot was straight at the Columbus ‘keeper.

Robbie Rogers had a chance for Columbus in the 19th minute, wrong-footing Marvell Wynne and sending a weak shot past Greg Sutton. Tyrone Marshall was on hand on the line, however, to clear the ball emphatically.

Robert and Guevara each had more than one chance to send an inswinging corner into Hesmer’s penalty area, but the fierce wind at Exhibition Place made it difficult for Toronto to find the head of Dichio or centerbacks Tyrone Marshall and Marco Vélez.

With the teams swapping sides in the second half, TFC finally had the chance to attack the south end, Toronto’s own curva sud with the highest concentration of support. Tyrone Marshall found himself clear on the left side of the penalty area after a scramble following Robert’s 52nd minute free kick, but the defender’s cross-shot flew harmlessly across Hesmer’s goal and out of danger.

The best chance of the game arrived just ahead of the hour-mark, however, when Robert cut in from the right side and found some space outside the Crew penalty area. The Frenchman lined up a low shot that looked to have beaten Hesmer, but the powerful strike cannoned off the base of the far post and back into play.

With Dichio unable to make a difference and struggling to hold the ball up in the windy conditions, Carver replaced his fellow Englishman with veteran MLS striker Jeff Cunningham in the 63rd minute. The former Columbus hitman was prolific in his seven seasons with the Crew but has been restricted to late cameo appearances so far in 2008 with Toronto.

Cunningham’s pace quickly threatened to make the difference, with the American leading a late charge with Guevara and Ricketts just minutes after his introduction. Guevara collected Cunningham’s low pass and laid it off to Ricketts, but the English winger’s left-footed strike was straight at Hesmer.

For his part, Crew midfielder-forward Guillermo Barros-Schelotto was growing increasingly frustated with perceived injustices by the officials and the Toronto FC crowd. The Argentine was pelted with streamers on all four corners of the pitch throughout the match as he lined up to take set pieces for the Crew.

The tension showed as Barros-Schelotto grew increasingly theatric, finally receiving a booking late in the second half for simulation. Crew boss Sigi Schmid was quick to replace the former Boca Juniors star with Nicolas Hernandez in stoppage time.

The 0-0 marks the end of a five-game winning streak for Columbus but preserves an unbeaten run for both sides, the longest and second-longest in the league so far this season.t

“You got to give them credit,” Toronto midfielder Carl Robinson told the club’s website after the game. “They… got what I think they wanted to get; we couldn’t get what we wanted to get… but, you know, it’s important we took something out of the game, we took a point out of the game.”

Schmid maintained that his team were up for all three points, however:

“It’s just one of those games,” he told Toronto’s media relations department. “Toronto’s playing well, and they’re playing well at home. You know, for us, it’s been a while since we’ve played on turf, and that always changes the game a little bit. It was a little windy… was important for us to play to zero in the back and see if we could maybe grab a goal on the road, and I thought we came close a couple of times.”

D.C. United’s visit on Wednesday night will test Toronto’s home record further, with a return tie against United scheduled for next Saturday.

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