May 31, 2014, 8:53 PM EDT
Missing the suspended Federico Higuaín, goal scoring should have been Columbus’s biggest problem on Saturday in Toronto, yet it was the other end of the field that proved the Crew’s downfall. With his second multi-goal performance of the season, TFC’s Jermain Defoe pulled back two Columbus leads, setting the table for the late Doneil Henry winner that gave the Reds their 3-2 victory at BMO Field.
The victory gives Toronto seven points from the team’s last three games, reversing a trend that saw the team momentarily sit with more losses than wins. For Columbus, the defeat puts the Crew in that exact situation, with the team’s 4-5-4 record dropping them behind the Reds in the Eastern Conference.
Beyond its influence on the standings, the game served as another reminder of Toronto’s dependence on Defoe. Despite missing three games, the former Tottenham Hotspur has scored six of TFC’s 14 goals, with his Saturday tallies twice bringing Ryan Nelsen’s team out of an uncomfortable posture. Typically eschewing the ball in favor of defensive solidity, Toronto seems ill-equipped to play from behind, but after drawing an equalizing penalty in the first half before beating Steve Clark with a late left-footed blast, Defoe showed he is a one-man change of plan. Without him, Toronto doesn’t get Saturday’s result.
Even with Defoe’s performance, Columbus should have been able to salvage a point, but on a 92nd minute restart from deep on Toronto’s right,
Ben Speas Bernardo Añor – a 5’8″ midfielder – drew the marking assignment on one of Toronto’s most likely targets: 6’1″ Doneil Henry. The TFC defender ran straight through Speas to meet Daniel Lovitz’s restart at the edge of the six-yard box, scoring a winner that was almost too easy.
It was also too fitting: A third defensive mistake on a day when the attack was supposed to be the problem. Between Tyson Wahl pulling down Jermain Defoe early, Michael Parkhurst mishandling a ball before Defoe’s second, and Añor marking Henry on the third, Columbus conceded three preventable goals at BMO. They also conceded three points to a potential playoff rival.
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