TORONTO – A scoreless draw in the opening leg of the 2016 Trillium Cup left both sides on level terms, but one contestant was happier than the other come the final whistle.
Columbus Crew SC and Toronto FC played to a 0-0 draw on Saturday at BMO Field, but it was the visitors who left satisfied grabbing a road point against a challenging and talented opponent in TFC.
“Overall, pleased with the result,” said Crew SC coach Gregg Berhalter in his post-match remarks. “It was a game of high intensity. Both teams wanted to get up and down the field and put in good effort.”
Though the draw extended Crew SC's winless run to four matches – and their run of draws to three-straight – the clean sheet they posted was just their third all season. That, plus the point picked up, provided reason for optimism.
“Credit Steve [Clark], but credit the entire team for getting a shutout away from home,” said Berhalter, who also praised midfielder Rodrigo Saravia for stepping in for injured center back Gaston Sauro in the first half. “The guys really helped him and [Clark] put in a good performance.”
Content himself with the shutout, Clark concurred with his boss.
“It’s a team effort," said Clark. "I thought Michael [Parkhurst] did a really good job, had a nice block. Rodrigo had a nice block in the second half. It’s about team defending. I’ve said all along, we’ve been defending better this year than last year.”
Having spoken in the lead-up to the match about the threat of reigning MLS MVP Sebastian Giovinco, Berhalter & Co. devised a plan to shut down the dynamic Toronto attacker.
“We wanted to get guys around him, get pressure on the ball, [so] that they couldn't find him in easy positions," said Berhalter. "Deny him good service, deny good positions, and condense the space. By and large, we've succeeded in that."
Midfielder Wil Trapp, playing deep alongside Mohammed Saeid in front of the back four, was instrumental in containing the Italian international.
“With Giovinco, it is always difficult because he is such a talented player, if you give him time and space,” said Trapp. “You always have to think about swarming, getting two or three guys around him to try and nick a ball or close his passing angles down.
“We did a great job with first and second balls and then getting numbers around him. He’s always going to be dangerous, but I thought for the most part we did a pretty good job.”