March 28, 2009 MLS Columbus Crew vs Toronto FC (from Staff)

Reds remain unbeaten with draw in Columbus
Toronto FC use Crew own goal to secure 1-1 result
03/28/2009 08:44 PMBy Peter Mallett / Staff

COLUMBUS -- An unlikely own goal by Columbus defender Gino Padula helped Toronto FC remain undefeated this season as the Reds salvaged a 1-1 tie at Crew Stadium Saturday afternoon. The game was the first leg of the 2009 Trillium Cup; the draw spoiled the defending MLS Cup champions' home opener.

Toronto's gift-wrapped equalizer came in the 84th minute after a free kick into the Columbus penalty area by Reds midfielder Dwayne De Rosario was headed backwards by the Argentinean defender into his own net.

Columbus fans had just started celebrating what looked to be the defending club's first win of the season before the late game letdown.

"The main thing with the free kick being so far out of the penalty area was just to put it in the right area," said De Rosario, a key offseason acquisition for Toronto. "Opportunities like that just pay off for themselves sometimes -- it just took a little flick from their own defender and some good fortune for us to end up in the back of their own net."

De Rosario, a Toronto native, had promised in training sessions earlier this week to make the long 8-hour drive home more enjoyable for more than 2,000 Toronto FC supporters who attended the match in central Ohio.

While Toronto struggled with long searching balls forward from their backline for much of the game, the Crew and their 2008 MLS MVP Guillermo Barros Schelotto dictated the offensive tempo from the opening whistle.

"He [Schelotto] is a talented midfielder with great ability who just plays the game very well," said Toronto FC coach John Carver. "We had a little bit of bon-thai going on during the match when he went down after a foul in our end, he just came over to the sideline and gave me a little wink. He is a clever professional and knows how to play the game and knows what to do with the ball in pressure situations."

Schelotto netted his second goal of the season in the 30th minute when he blasted a penalty kick down the middle of the Toronto goal with 'keeper Stefan Frei guessing wrong and diving to his right. The opportunity was created when Schelotto's cross deflected off the arm of TFC midfielder Kevin Harmse.

Columbus outshot Toronto 4-2 and dominated play for much of the match until their late collapse. The Crew nearly added to their lead in the 37th minute when midfielder Eddie Gaven's blistering shot hit the post. Gathering up the rebound, Nigerian midfielder Emmanuel Ekpo took a hard shot, forcing Frei into a fingertip save.

"No question that was a world-class save and kept us in the game when we needed it most," said Carver.

Toronto's long-ball game limited their opportunities with defender Chad Marshall moping up most of the visitors' crosses. It wasn't until the 42nd minute that Argentinean striker Pablo Vitti gave Columbus goalkeeper William Hesmer his first true test of the match.

"We just kept kicking the ball forward in the first half and I wasn't happy with that aspect and I let the team know about that at halftime; overall I think they responded [in the second half]," said Carver.

Vitti was making his first start of the season along with defender Marco Velez in the TFC lineup. They were replacing Welsh midfielder Carl Robinson and Honduras international Amado Guevara, both away on international duty.

"It was nice to be out there today -- and be part of the starting 11," said Velez. "I have been working hard in training all week so I feel comfortable with my play. It was just good to be able to play today and get a good result."

Peter Mallett is a contributor to

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