Toronto FC wipes out Columbus even without Giovinco, Altidore


Toronto FC's Justin Morrow (right). (Chris Young/CP)

• Columbus 0, Toronto 5 (Vazquez 6’ and 59’, Morrow 39’, Osorio 86’, Hamilton 90’+3’)
• TFC unbeaten in eight MLS games, with seven wins
• Ben Spencer earns an assist in his MLS debut

TORONTO – The big red machine keeps rolling along, wiping out any Major League Soccer team that dares to step in its path.

Victor Vazquez bagged a brace, and Justin Morrow, Jonathan Osorio and Jordan Hamilton also scored for Toronto FC, who thrashed the Columbus Crew 5-0 before 25, 376 fans at BMO Field on Friday night.

Toronto is now unbeaten in eight MLS games (with seven wins) and improved its league-best record to 8-1-5. Its only loss came in a 2-1 setback in Columbus on April 15.

Friday’s contest was one of the most dominant performances in franchise history, but here’s a scary thought: Captain Michael Bradley thinks this TFC side can be even better.

“The most exciting part for me is I continue to look at our team and feel like we have big room for improvement. I don’t say that in any negative way. We’ve made big progress, but I still see big margin for improvement,” Bradley said.

Toronto’s comprehensive victory was all the more impressive in light of the absences of its two top scorers. With forwards Jozy Altidore (suspended) and Sebastian Giovinco (quad strain) unavailable, coach Greg Vanney handed an MLS debut to Ben Spencer. The young American, who spent last season with the TFC 2 farm club, started up front alongside Tosaint Ricketts and made a good first impression – he used his size to great effect in Toronto’s buildup play and collected an assist on Morrow’s goal.

In midfield, Bradley and Vazquez bossed the game with their sublime distribution to cause all sorts of problems for Columbus’ back four. With three goals and a league-leading eight assists, Vazquez, one of the Reds’ biggest off-season additions, has quickly established himself as one of the best MLS newcomers this year. It’s not just his silky skills in possession, or his ability to deliver a killer pass. The Spaniard’s on-field intelligence is off the charts.

“His brain,” Vanney answered in the post-match press conference when asked what makes Vazquez so special.

“I’m a big believer that the game is played in your head before it’s played out for everyone to see, and he’s just two steps ahead of everybody else. He knows how much time he has, he knows where pressure is coming from, he knows where his outs are, he knows where the pass that can hurt [opponents] is. He just knows.”

Vanney later added: “He’s not the guy who dribbles around people and is sprinting with the ball. He’s not that guy. But if you want a guy to find space and find the right pass and then deliver the right ball, there isn’t anybody better [in MLS].”

Credit must be also given to TFC’s defence, who shut down the attacking trio of Ola Kamara, Federico Higuain and Justin Meram. As a result, goalkeeper Alex Bono enjoyed a very quiet night, and Toronto earned its sixth clean sheet of the campaign.

“We had some defending to do. They had a lot of possession, but it wasn’t really threatening. I thought we did a good job of keeping them in front of us,” defender Drew Moor said.

One of the fastest players in the league, Ricketts was flying right from the start, and put the Crew’s back line under constant pressure. In the sixth minute, he latched onto a raking pass from Vazquez to break in on goal and earn a penalty after being hauled down by Columbus defender Jonathan Mensah.

Mensah was given a yellow card, although he deserved to see red as he denied an obvious goal scoring opportunity. Ricketts lined up to take the penalty before being waived off by Vazquez who fired home past Crew goalkeeper Zack Steffan.

Columbus settled down after chasing the game for most of the opening half, but then conceded for a second time just before halftime. Spencer did very well to fight off a defender after a Columbus giveaway, and then picked out a streaking Morrow down the left side. The defender made no mistake as he blasted a shot past Steffan for his third goal of the campaign.

Vazquez scored a very cheeky goal early in the second half to extend the Reds’ lead after Marky Delgado earned a free kick on the edge of the box. Instead of curling it over the defensive wall, Vazquez hit a drive along the ground that slipped underneath the Crew players as they jumped up in anticipation and rolled past Steffen. Magnificent!

Toronto played the last 10 minutes a man down after Delgado was sent off for a studs-up tackle on Will Trapp.

It hardly slowed down the Reds. Second-half substitutes Jordan Hamilton and Osorio combined for TFC’s fourth goal, with Hamilton threading a pass to Osorio, who then breezed past three Crew players and whipped a shot through Steffen’s legs. Hamilton added a fifth goal deep into injury time, scoring a header off a cross to the far post from Raheem Edwards, another second-half substitute.

“We got contributions from a lot of guys. … The three subs who came on all made a difference in the game. It pretty much went according to plan,” Vanney said

NOTES: Prior to kickoff, a moment of silence was held to honour the victims who died in the recent Manchester terrorist attacks… Friday was the third and final meeting of the regular season between Toronto and Columbus. They split the first two contests, with each earning a 2-1 win in Columbus. The Crew lead the all-time series with 13 wins and eight losses in 31 meetings… It’s a busy week coming up for TFC. They host the Ottawa Fury on Wednesday in the second leg of the Canadian club championship, then travel to take on the New England Revolution on Saturday in MLS. The Reds will be without Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore for both games, as they’ll be away on U.S. national team duty.

The first decade of Toronto FC in the words of the players, coaches, executives and fans who built the franchise.

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