Own goal salvages draw for Toronto FC

Thanks to an own goal by Columbus in the final few minutes, Toronto FC tied the defending MLS champion Crew 1-1 on Saturday.

The visiting Toronto FC salvaged a draw against the defending MLS champions on Saturday. Thanks to an own goal by Columbus in the final few minutes, TFC tied the Crew 1-1.

Crew defender Gino Padula headed a Danny Dichio cross over his goalkeeper and into the Columbus net in the 84th minute to even the score.

Though the goal came from a Crew player, TFC head coach John Carver says his team deserved the outcome.

"If you look at the possession, I think most of the game was played in [their] half of the pitch," Carver said. "Although we didn't create a great deal of chances, I thought we took the game to them and had a go at them." 

Goalkeepers Greg Sutton and Stefan Frei were the heroes of the day for TFC. After a penalty strike put the Crew up 1-0 in the first half, Frei made several fantastic saves in the final minutes of the half to keep Toronto only down by one heading into the break.

Frei substituted

But on one of those stops, the Swiss keeper suffered a lower back injury and had to be substituted for Sutton, who picked up where Frei left off in the second half, blanking Columbus and giving TFC a chance to tie the game.

Argentine Guillermo Barros Schelotto scored the opening goal from the spot for Columbus on a controversial penalty awarded in the 30th minute.

A Crew cross was deflected by the hand of TFC defender Kevin Harmse who, along with his teammates, immediately protested that it was an unintentional deflection. Replays showed that the Vancouver native had a point, as the ball hit his left arm as he tried to pull it away from the play.

The run of play was even up until that point as Toronto's scrappy defending kept play tight up until the spot kick strike by Schelotto.

Columbus took over the game soon after, hitting the post and forcing a good diving save out of Frei on a sizzler by Eddie Gaven before halftime. Frei looked noticeably in pain after the save, but stayed in the game until halftime before giving way to Sutton.

Defence shaky

It was more of the same in the second as Toronto's defence became shaky, giving possession away in dangerous areas and allowing Crew attackers to dance through the back line.

But Sutton stood tall, stopping Garey, Schelotto, and Emmanuel Ekpo on a number of shots throughout the half before TFC began to press the Crew late. A couple substitutions seemed to spark Toronto, with Johann Smith coming on for Rohan Ricketts in the 62nd minute and fan favourite Danny Dichio replacing Chad Barrett in the 68th.

Coach Carver's changes paid off late, as it was Dichio's cross that crossed up Columbus defender Padula, who headed it over keeper William Hesmer and into his own net.

Toronto was buoyed by a strong contingent of FC faithful, as around 2,500 fans made the trip to Ohio for the game. As usual, they were in full voice throughout the tie, especially during the singing of the Canadian national anthem before the game.

The tie brings TFC's record to 1-1-0, the team's best start to an MLS campaign. Since they entered the league in 2007, Toronto is winless versus Columbus, going 0-4-3 in that time. Columbus is 0-2-0 to kick off their title defence.

TFC hosts Seattle Sounders FC in its home opener on April 4 (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 3:30 p.m. ET).

With files from the Associated Press