Reds put out of their misery with season-ending loss
By KURTIS LARSON, QMI Agency
The tail end of Toronto FC’s 2-1 loss in Columbus Sunday was representative of the helter-skelter nature of a miserable season.
After the Crew’s Frederico Higuain provided the go-ahead goal from the spot on the hour mark, an injury to Ryan Johnson left the injury-riddled Reds with no options.
During a loss that extended TFC’s league winless run to 14 games, Adrian Cann moved up front as head coach Paul Mariner saw out Sunday’s season-ender with six defenders and a pair of academy prospects looking on from his below average bench.
It was the perfect representation of a season that has seen an alarming number of injuries, depth exposed and an embattled front office struggle.
The Reds conceded twice or more for the 21st time Sunday, allowing Higuain to complete his brace midway through the second half after a timely goal in the 16th minute provided the home side an opener in an evenly played first half.
After Toronto’s back four failed to clear a flighted in ball from the right sideline, an inadvertent Terry Dunfield back pass set up nicely for Higuain at the top of the area. The Crew’s Argentinian attacker cut past TFC’s Jeremy Hall before slotting home.
Appearing more interested in snapping its winless run than it did eight days earlier against Montreal, the Reds fought back for an equalizer 10 minutes later.
In the 27th minute, Andrew Weideman raced on to a flick from Johnson, touching the ball past the Crew’s Eric Gehrig to put himself in alone before placing his attempt inside the back post to level things at Crew Stadium.
The Reds had a chance five minutes before the break to take a lead when off a corner Hall laid back to Reggie Lambe, who struck a low drive that Gruenebaum did well to hold. It was the last quality chance the Reds would produce before a second half that was full of confusion.
Terry Dunfield helped initiate the meltdown when he brought down Higuain inside the area in the 62nd minute. The Argentinian converted to Freddy Hall’s right to provide the Crew a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
Higuain nearly scored his fourth in two games against TFC when in the 69th minute he cut in from the left and unleashed a dipping shot that Hall palmed away.
Already without seven starters due to season-ending injuries, Johnson hobbled off 20 minutes from time, which saw Mariner blow up his lineup.
Jeremy Hall and Cann, who started in defence, were moved into attacking rolls while defenders Logan Emory and Doneil Henry made appearances.
Unsurprisingly, the moves failed to create any quality chances until Cann drew a foul in a dangerous area deep in stoppage time.
Appropriately enough, TFC’s last kick was a Dunfield restart that missed over the bar, ending a season in which the Reds never met the bar they set for themselves in early March.