May 2, 2009 MLS Toronto FC vs Columbus Crew (from

Crew score first, but remain winless
Ekpo scores for Columbus in draw with Toronto
By Mark Polishuk / Staff
Crew, Reds play to second draw of season

TORONTO -- It's an adage that is as old as soccer itself: the team that scores first is the overwhelming favorite to win the game. This season alone, teams that scored the first goal were a combined 26-4-13 heading into Saturday's action.

In fact, the only team who had yet to win a game wherein they had scored first was the Columbus Crew. Unfortunately for the Crew, the ignominious statistic will last at least one more week, as Columbus lost a one-goal lead in what ended up as a 1-1 draw Saturday afternoon against Toronto FC at BMO Field.

The Crew outshot Toronto 17-5 overall, with a 9-2 edge in shots on goal. In spite of this attacking dominance, Columbus didn't score until the 54th minute, when Emmanuel Ekpo stole the ball from TFC defender Jim Brennan, made a nice run up to the right side of the box to round goalkeeper Stefan Frei and then easily buried the shot into the open left side of the net.

The lead, however, lasted just 10 minutes. Midfielder Brian Carroll was beaten by Toronto's Sam Cronin following a throw-in on the left side, and Cronin rushed down the field to cross the ball to the front of the net. TFC striker Chad Barrett gave himself just enough space clear of Chad Marshall to head the ball past 'keeper Andy Gruenebaum for what turned out to be the equalizer.

It was the fourth time this season that Columbus had ended up with a draw after scoring the first goal, with the only bright side being that unlike the other three occasions, this tying goal didn't come in the final eight minutes of the game. The lack of heartbreak was little consolation for a team that is still looking for its first win of 2009.

"It was a good performance today," said Columbus coach Robert Warzycha. "We definitely deserved at least one point today and we're disappointed we didn't get three. We just had the mistake in the back. We have to do a better job defending."

Warzycha said he was pleased with the team's overall play, and pointed to the Black-and-Gold's season-high 17 shots taken and season-low five shots allowed as positive steps. He also noted that in spite of the Crew's seven-game winless streak to begin the season, the team's morale is still high.

"It doesn't look like the team is down," Warzycha said. "We know the wins are going to come if we just eliminate mistakes in the back. ... I mean, we're scoring the goals, but just we always have something happen that's not supposed to happen."

Team captain Guillermo Barros Schelotto echoed his coach's thoughts, saying that the players are disappointed, rather than frustrated, at the 0-5-2 start.

"There's no frustration. We'd feel better if we win just one game," Schelotto said. "Maybe the next game, with Kansas City [next Saturday]. The team needs one."

Schelotto played just 61 minutes, his shortest outing of the season and just the third time that the striker has come out of a game early this year. Warzycha said the substitution was due in part because of a first-half booking that Schelotto picked up for a reckless foul, and also in an effort to protect his star forward from the physical toll of playing on BMO Field's artificial surface.

Still, the draw continued the Crew's success in Toronto. Columbus are one of just two teams (New England being the other) who are unbeaten in multiple visits to BMO Field. At arguably the most intimidating away venue in the league, the Crew are 1-0-3 all-time against the Reds, and improved to 4-0-4 in eight meetings with their Trillium Cup rivals.

"On the road, especially playing here in Toronto, is always tough, and we would've loved three points but I don't think one point is all that bad," said midfielder Robbie Rogers, who led the Crew with five shots.

The midfielder also gave his opinion on what has been plaguing the Black-and-Gold late in games, saying that the team needs to be a bit more defense-oriented to protect leads.

"We need to manage the game at the end a little better," Rogers said. "We were trying to connect passes and the ball was getting lost and they would counterattack, especially after we scored. ... Sometimes I think we're a little naive and give up the ball way too easily. That's something we need to work on."

Mark Polishuk is a contributor to

back to Toronto FC menu