COLUMBUS, Ohio — Lucas Zelarayan scored one goal and helped set up the other as the Columbus Crew rallied to defeat an understaffed Toronto FC team 2-1 in an MLS game on Saturday.
Goals from Zelarayan in the 56th minute and Derek Etienne Jr. in the 65th canceled out a strike from Spanish striker Jesus Jimenez in the 14th minute with Columbus (2-0-1) strong in the second half to overcome a brilliant departure from Toronto (0-2-1).
The margin of victory could have been greater if substitutes Gyasi Zardes in the 70th minute and Luis Diaz in the 80th minute had not missed excellent scoring opportunities.
It was a fast, end-to-end game on a cold afternoon on the Lower.com Feld that occasionally saw snowflakes falling.
Jimenez’s first goal, his second in as many games, gave Toronto its first lead of the young season as Columbus failed to manage a Luca Petrasso corner. Jonathan Osorio found Alejandro Pozuelo on the left edge of the penalty area and the Spaniard’s cross found an unmarked Jimenez, who headed it home in front of goal.
Toronto goalkeeper Alex Bono made a magnificent reflex save in the 54th minute to block a Jonathan Mensah header from a Columbus corner.
But two minutes later, Zelarayan beat Bono with a low shot from just outside the penalty area for his fourth goal in three games. And Columbus started to take over.
The Argentine star midfielder came on as a provider in the 65th minute with a free kick which Mensah headed towards the goal, where an unmarked Etienne fired a shot that hit a defender and past Bono. Toronto may well feel aggrieved by the foul call against Jayden Nelson on Pedro Santos which provided the free-kick opportunity.
Zelarayan has scored in his last six matches since October 27, a streak that has produced eight goals, including three winners, as well as three assists.
With centre-back Carlos Salcedo suspended and full-back Jacob Shaffelburg sidelined with a leg injury, Toronto have moved to a back three.
Chris Mavinga, who started the season opener alongside Salcedo, was unavailable after suffering a knee injury in training. Fellow centre-back Shane O’Neill, who started last week, also faced a knock but did so on a seven-man bench that included two goalkeepers.
In contrast, Columbus fielded the same starting 11 for the third game in a row.
Toronto coach Bob Bradley dropped captain Michael Bradley, his son, in defense alongside Lukas MacNaughton and Kadin Chung, who were making their first TFC starts. The two former Canadian Premier League players had some great matches.
Toronto’s starting 11 included seven Canadians with Noble Okello making his first start of the season, positioning himself in midfield.
Despite the makeshift lineout, Toronto looked lively early on and moved the ball well with Columbus keeper Eloy Room called into action in the sixth minute to catch a header from Okello.
Zelarayan closed with a free kick in the 10th minute after being brought down by Bradley just outside the penalty area.
TFC’s injuries continued when distraught full-back Jahkeele Marshal-Rutty limped off in the 12th minute.
Bono stopped Miguel Berry’s angle shot in the 25th minute. Two minutes later, Room stopped Petrasso from close range after the Columbus defense opened up.
It was Chung to the rescue in the 28th minute, with a well-timed tackle on Yaw Yeboah to counter a Columbus counterattack.
A Columbus goal by Etienne was called offside in the 31st minute of an end-to-end half. Bono denied Yeboah five minutes later after the Ghana international entered the penalty area.
Bono managed to fire a header from Etienne from close range in the 41st minute after Zelarayan beat Bradley down the left flank and fired a cross at the far post.
A clash of headers late in the half as MacNaughton attempted a high ball left the Toronto defender with a sizeable mouse under his eye.
The hall went down to stop a shot from substitute Ifunanyachi Achara in the 49th minute.
Teenage midfielder Kosi Thompson made his TFC debut, coming off the bench in the 82nd minute with striker Jordan Perruzza making his first appearance of the season.
Toronto was coming off a 4-1 loss to the New York Red Bulls in their home opener. TFC kicked off the season with a 1-1 draw at FC Dallas.
Columbus started with a 4-0 win over Vancouver before settling for a 3-3 draw at San Jose with the Earthquakes scoring in the 84th and 96th minutes to earn a point.
The seven goals in two games was 15% of the Crew total in 2021 (46).
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on March 12, 2022
The Canadian Press