COLUMBUS, Ohio – Toronto FC had neither beaten the rival Columbus Crew, nor captured the Trillium Cup, in three previous seasons. All that changed Saturday when first-half goals by Nick Soolsma and Ryan Johnson paced the Reds to a 4-2 victory in Crew Stadium.
Tommy Heinemann cut the deficit in 67th minute, but Julian de Guzman scored a critical insurance goal in the 83rd.
It was needed because Andrés Mendoza made it interesting with a 20-yard strike four minutes later only to see TFC (5-12-12, 27 points) cap the game with a Danny Koevermans open-net goal in the second minute of stoppage time as goalkeeper William Hesmer came out to track the ball.
Toronto took a stunning 2-0 halftime lead on goals by Soolsma in the 21st and Johnson in the 42nd. Poor decision-making plagued the Crew much as it did in a 6-2 defeat to Seattle Sounders FC in their last outing.
Defender Sebastián Miranda misplayed a long flighted from Toronto, and Eric Avila’s ensuing corner kick was headed out by Josh Gardner to the foot of Torsten Frings, who cracked a 25-yarder into the center of the box.
His shot hit Soolsma amidst a sea of yellow and he turned and fired quickly past Hesmer.
It was the seventh time in 13 home games that the Crew had trailed 1-0 but they had a 3-1-2 record in those games.
However, they hadn’t trailed by two until Johnson’s floating header caught Hesmer off his line and Gardner a few inches too short to reach a looping ball from the left flank by Joao Plata.
Johnson and Gardner kept backpedaling toward the right post as Hesmer made a move there as well. The ‘keeper was in no-man’s land as the ball sailed over Gardner to Johnson. His header went back across the goalmouth as Hesmer could only watch helplessly.
Columbus drew one back in the 67th minute after freshly inserted Tommy Heinemann finished a quality passing play on backup keeper Milos Kocic, who was also in his first minute of play.
TFC starting goalkeeper Stefan Frei and Crew forward Emilio Rentería had to leave the game after a robust collision as both went for the ball near the Crew goal in the 66th minute.
Heinemann came in and was one the end of the buildup that began with Emmanuel Ekpo giving a lead ball to Robbie Rogers on the left flank. Rogers whipped a pass to the goal box where Heinemann got the redirect.
Kocic wasn’t able to stop that one, but got a glove on a 19-yard free kick by Gardner in the 79th to preserve the lead.
Then Guzman scored on a well-placed low drive from outside the penalty area in the 83rd minute.
TFC had only five goals while going winless in six tries (0-4-2) in Columbus but they didn’t play like a team that trailed the Crew by 16 points in the standings.
An early indication was Johnson header off a Soolsma corner kick in the 8th minute that Hesmer tipped of the crossbar.
Given a reprieve, the Crew immediately went the other way and Rogers took a hard drive from 15 yards only to see Frei in perfect position for the save.
The teams met for the first time since the July 15 trade that sent defender Andy Iro and midfielder Leandre Griffit to TFC for midfielder Tony Tchani.
TFC won for the first time against the Crew (1-5-7) Saturday and are now 1-4-2 in Columbus, after having scored only five goals in the previous six games there.
Columbus (11-9-7, 40) have been outscored 10-4 in consecutive losses and dropped into a tie for first in the Eastern Conference with Kansas City. They next host the Houston Dynamo on Sept. 14.
Toronto, meanwhile, travel to Pumas UNAM that same day in a CONCACAF Champions League match and are at Chivas USA on Sept. 24.
TOR -- Nick Soolsma 2 (Torsten Frings 1) 21
TOR -- Ryan Johnson 2 (Joao Plata 5, Julian de Guzman 2) 42
CLB -- Tommy Heinemann 3 (Robbie Rogers 6, Emmanuel Ekpo 2) 67
TOR -- Julian de Guzman 2 (unassisted) 83
CLB -- Andres Mendoza 9 (Tommy Heinemann 1, Jeff Cunningham 1) 87
TOR -- Danny Koevermans 4 (Julian de Guzman 3) 92+
TOR -- Ty Harden (caution; Reckless Tackle) 37
CLB -- Sebastian Miranda (caution; Reckless Tackle) 73
TOR -- Eric Avila (caution; Reckless Tackle) 82
Toronto FC -- Stefan Frei (Milos Kocic 66), Richard Eckersley, Ty Harden, Andy Iro, Ashtone Morgan, Julian de Guzman, Eric Avila, Torsten Frings, Joao Plata, Nick Soolsma (Matt Stinson 80), Ryan Johnson (Danny Koevermans 87).
Substitutes Not Used: Danleigh Borman, Peri Marosevic, Eddy Viator, Mikael Yourassowsky.
Columbus Crew -- William Hesmer, Sebastian Miranda, Chad Marshall, Julius James, Josh Gardner, Robbie Rogers, Emmanuel Ekpo, Rich Balchan (Kevin Burns 80), Dilly Duka (Jeff Cunningham 74), Andres Mendoza, Emilio Renteria (Tommy Heinemann 65).
Substitutes Not Used: Shaun Francis, Justin Meram, Danny O'Rourke, Chris Konopka.
Referee: Jair Marrufo
Referee's Assistants: C.J. Morgante; Frank Anderson
4th Official: Jasen Anno
Time of Game: 1:52
Weather: Partly Cloudy and 73 degrees