Toronto FC settles for draw with Columbus

Toronto FC enjoyed the majority of possession and scoring chances but had to settle for a 0-0 tie with the Columbus Crew, the top team in Major League Soccer, on Saturday.

The Columbus Crew continue to be the bane of Toronto FC's existence.

Toronto enjoyed the majority of possession and scoring chances but had to settle for a 0-0 tie with the Crew, the top team in Major League Soccer, on a sunny Saturday afternoon before 20,358 spectators at BMO Field.

With the result, Toronto extended its record unbeaten streak to five games (three wins and two ties) and improved to 3-2-2 with 11 points on the season. Columbus, sitting in first place in MLS with a 6-1-1 record and 19 points, has owned Toronto since the Canadian club entered the league in 2007: Toronto is winless in five games against the Crew, with three losses.

Columbus won a 2-0 decision in the season opener for both clubs on March 29.

Saturday's game was Toronto's first since May 1 — when it battled to a 1-1 tie with the New York Red Bulls at home — but the Canadian club showed few signs of rustiness after the lengthy layoff.

Captain Jim Brennan and his defensive cohorts did a good job of containing Columbus star Guillermo Barros Schelotto. The Argentine forward, used to having his way with defenders, was clearly frustrated and was reduced to diving theatrically to the ground under the slightest of challenges in order to win free kicks from the officials.

Schelotto earned a yellow card late in the game for his play acting, but Toronto coach John Carver was seething over the Argentine's tactics.

"I'm very disappointed, if I'm being quite honest. If that was back in England, everybody would be up in arms, screaming and shouting that it's bad for the image of the game," Carver said in the post-match news conference.

"I've never seen anything like that," the Englishman added.

Columbus coach Sigi Schmid defended Schelotto.

"I think John has to worry about his players and I have to worry about mine.… I think Guillermo is a very competitive individual who plays with a lot of passion and fire, and he felt he got fouled a couple of times and it didn't get called," Schmid said.

Carver was also upset because MLS sent a DVD to all of the league's referees that it put together, chronicling his frantic and passionate behaviour on the sidelines in Toronto's last game. The English coach, who said he was verbally abused by the fourth official on the way back to the locker-room at half time, said the video influenced and prejudiced the referee's decisions on the field Saturday.

"I got my wrist slapped for my aggressive manner. And yet you have a guy like Schelotto who runs across the field to the linesman after he goes down in the first seven minutes of the game and nothing happens. And the whole game he continues to fall down as if the wind was too strong for him to stay up," Carver said.

Slick passing

Toronto dominated the proceedings early on thanks to some slick passing and carved out a string of scoring chances in the first 15 minutes with forwards Danny Dichio and Amado Guevara threatening the Columbus goal.

Although they barely allowed Columbus a sniff on goal in the first half, Toronto nearly came undone in the 25th minute. An error by defender Marvell Wynne put Columbus midfielder Robbie Rogers free in the box, but centre back Tyrone Marshall came to Wynne's rescue, clearing Rogers' shot on net off the goal-line.

The teams traded scoring chances early in the second half, with Marshall sending a dangerous volley through a crowded goalmouth and Columbus forward Alejandro Moreno pushing a shot just wide of the post.

Toronto's Laurent Robert came within inches of breaking the deadlock in the 60th minute when the French winger gave a Crew defender the slip and fired a curling shot from 22 yards out that smacked the post.

Robert turned playmaker 17 minutes later, making a darting run along the end line before playing a nice pass out front to Wynne, who had his shot stopped by Crew goalkeeper William Hesmer.

Toronto threatened again a minute later, but Rohan Ricketts, who was uncovered at the top of the box, fired a tame effort on goal that Hesmer easily collected.

Toronto has three shutouts in its last four contests, a testament to how the team has come together and jelled defensively after giving up eight goals through the first three games of the season.

Toronto hosts D.C. United next Wednesday in the first game of a home-and-home series. The clubs meet three days later in Washington.