Columbus Crew SC strolled into BMO Field and upended the defending champs to open the 2018 MLS regular season, riding goals from Federico Higuain and Gyasi Zardes on either side of halftime to an impressive 2-0 win.
At the end of an evenly matched first half, Higuain scored the first goal of the 2018 campaign as Milton Valenzuela collected a long diagonal ball from Artur near the endline and pinged it across for the the Argentine veteran to slam home off the hands of Toronto 'keeper Alex Bono.
Zardes, fresh off an offseason trade from the LA Galaxy, made an instant impact for his new team less than a minute into the second half, sliding a first-time finish past Bono after a perfectly weighted through ball from Pedro Santos. Zardes' goal would prove one more than Columbus needed to secure the victory, though Toronto came agonizingly close twice in the second half, hitting the woodwork on a curling effort from Sebastian Giovinco in the 65th minute and a long-range effort from debutant Ager Aketxe in the 78th.
- The Big Picture: It was the first game of a long season, but Columbus clearly laid down a statement of intent by beating a team that by most experts' reckoning got better after a historic 2017. TFC will no doubt still be in the title mix this season, but it's a worrying result with a full-strength team ahead of Wednesday's huge CCL clash with Tigres, especially with Victor Vazquez limping off the field and straight down the tunnel in the 53rd minute.
- Moment of the Match: Although Higuain's opener proved to be the game-winner, the game's key moment came when Zardes slid home the second goal just seconds after the restart, shutting the door on a potent TFC side and allowing Columbus to (mostly) defend comfortably for the rest of the game.
- Man of the Match: Higuain was a man possessed in the first half, orchestrating a number of dangerous Crew SC attacks and providing a well-taken finish at the end of the half to send his team into the locker room in good spirits. Though his attacking presence was less needed after Columbus went up by two, Higuain's play set the tone for his team's victory.
- TOR: CONCACAF Champions League – Wednesday, March 7 – vs. Tigres UANL (8 pm ET | UDN, UnivisionDeportes.com; go90.com)
- CLB: Saturday, March 10 – vs. Montreal (1 pm ET | CTV, TSN 1/4/5, TSN GO; MLS LIVE in US)