COLUMBUS, Ohio -- After shocking the MLS world with three consecutive victories to open the season, the Columbus Crew have a weak start to thank for their first defeat of the Gregg Berhalter era, a 2-0 loss to Toronto FC at Crew Stadium on Saturday. The club came out flat for the first half against Toronto FC, and USMNT star Michael Bradley made them pay with an early goal that set the tone for the rest of the match.
"We had a horrendous start to the game," Berhalter said after the match. "It was sloppy in every sense of the word -- our defending, our ball possession, our ball movement, our aggressiveness in our movements - and we paid for it."
Berhalter said he was surprised at the opening minutes after a positive week of training, but blamed himself for the result.
"We thought they were going to come in here and lay down for us, and they weren't, and why would they?" he said. "This is MLS. Every game is tight, we know that... So we shouldn't have had that attitude, and I'll take that responsibility for that if we did. We have to be ready to play from the opening whistle."
Midfielder Hector Jimenez confirmed Berhalter's concerns, and said that the Crew saw Toronto's Jermain Defoe, Doneil Henry, Jonathan Osorio and Steven Caldwell missing from the team sheet and expected an easier match.
"We thought so because of the players they were missing, but it was the opposite," he said. "They came out pressuring with a lot of energy, and those first 20 minutes were crucial."
Defender Josh Williams, one of the veterans of a young Crew squad, said the responsibility was on the players, noting that it had been a "lackadaisical" week of training after the "high of Seattle."
"It definitely wasn't Gregg's fault," he said. "As players we take responsibility for that, and I think it's definitely going to pick up this week."
Goalkeeper Steve Clark -- one of the team's most experienced players -- said he wasn't sure what caused the slow start, but said that it will be a lesson the Crew can build on after their honeymoon start.
"We're a young team, and it's important to learn lessons like this," he said. "You've got to come out and take the game; you've got to earn it."