MLS Snapshot: Columbus Crew 2-3 Toronto FC

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One game, 100 words (or less): For the second time this season, Toronto visited Crew Stadium without Jermain Defoe, and for the second time this season, the Reds leave Ohio with a victory. Thanks to goals Gilberto, Jonathan Osorio, and Luke Moore, TFC never trailed, answering equalizers from Federico Higuaín and Justin Meram with Moore’s 84th minute winner. In game which saw both sides with stretches of control, Toronto’s execution (and some Crew failings) in front of goal was the difference, allowing the Reds to claim their third win of the year over Columbus, 3-2.

Goals:

Columbus: Higuaín (p.k.) 47′, Meram 81′
Toronto: Gilberto 43′, Osorio 59′, Moore 84′

Three moments that mattered:

45+2′ – The Comeback, Part I – After a lazy giveaway and a lack of urgency in the 43rd minute, the Crew allowed Gilberto to put Toronto in front, and edge that only lasted four minutes. After Justin Morrow was whistled for a handball in the first minute of stoppage time, Higuaín buried his ninth goal of the season, wiping his team’s slate clean after a poorly conceded goal.

81′ – The Comeback, Part II – After more suspect Crew defending allowed Jonathan Osorio to finish into an empty net just before the hour, the Crew received a blessing: A cross from Justin Meram that left Joe Bendik in no man’s land. Electing to stay on his line as the ball came in from his right, Bendik was frozen as the cross flew over Aaron Schoenfeld’s head six yards from goal and inside the far post, giving Meram an unlikely equalizer.

84′ – The final response – When a team responds to two equalizers by finding a way to claim full points, it’s easy to say something like “they wouldn’t be denied,” but on Luke Moore’s winning tally, the cliché applied. Jumping to the ground and away from goal on an 84th minute corner, the former Chivas USA man headed in the winner from just over five years out, shrugging off his mark to deliver Toronto’s 3-2 win.

Lineups

Columbus: Steve Clark; Eric Gehrig (Aaron Schoenfield 79′), Giancarlo Gonzalez, Michael Parkhurst, Waylon Francis; Ethan Finlay, Wil Trapp, Tony Tchiani, Ben Speas (Justin Meram 64′); Federico Higuaín; Adam Bedell (Jairo Arrieta 63′)
Toronto: Joe Bednik; Warren Creavalle, Nick Hagglund, Doniel Henry, Justin Morrow; Dominic Oduro (Jackson 61′), Michael Bradley, Collen Warner, Jonanthan Osario; Luke Moore (Kyle Bekker 92′), Gilberto

Three lessons going forward:

1. Lines of delineation – As we saw with Toronto’s recent struggles against D.C. United, the results leave no doubt about the different in quality between the Reds and Columbus. Ryan Nelsen’s team has took all nine points from the Crew this season, securing eight goals in three games. Just as there’s a clear difference in quality between the East’s second and third place teams, Columbus have shown themselves to be on a lower level than Toronto.

2. Life alright without Defoe – When it was announced Toronto’s leading scorer would be out for 2-3 weeks, we ran the numbers. On Saturday, the Reds defied those results. This was the first time this year Toronto has scored more than two without Defoe in the team.

3. Lack of … something, from the Crew – After the game, Gregg Berhalter said there were “four or five” sub-par performances from his team, and when you see the nature of the Crew’s goals, you see a game that could have been worse. For all its quality in some places on the field, Columbus only generated four shots on target. Toronto had eight.

Where this leaves them:

  • The loss means Columbus drops one place in the East, with Philadelphia’s win pushing the Union into the top five.
  • Toronto firms up its grip on third place, now sitting four points clear of the fourth place Red Bulls.

CCL wrap: FC Dallas disappoints; Club America struts (video)

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The CONCACAF Champions League returned Tuesday with Toronto FC’s 2-0 quarterfinal first leg win in Colorado, and a trio of ties began Wednesday across Panama, Costa Rica, and Honduras.

[ WATCH: Fred’s vicious free kick ]

Tauro 1-0 FC Dallas

Veteran striker Edwin Aguilar scored a big goal, and goalkeeper Oscar McFarlane did plenty of good things as the Panamanian side struck a wild first blow against its MLS visitors.

Here’s a random fact underscoring how remarkable of a failure this would be for FC Dallas: Only six of Tauro’s roster members have their own Wikipedia page.

Deportivo Saprissa 1-5 Club America

Cecilio Dominguez and Mateus Uribe each bagged a brace, and Renato Ibarra also scored as the tournament’s top team sauntered into and out of Costa Rica on Wednesday. Club America has been to seven CCL finals, and one every single one.

Motagua vs. Club Tijuana — 10 a.m. ET

Honduran hosts hope to have a leg to stand on — pun intended — once the tie heads to Mexico.

West Ham to friendly neighbors Dag & Red: “Will help save our club”

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English Conference Premier side Dagenham and Redbridge has seen better days, and is getting a hand from a Premier League pal.

[ WATCH: Fred’s vicious free kick ]

West Ham United will pay a visit to Dag & Red as part of the latter’s #SaveTheDaggers campaign, and the March 21 date will cost fans between $7 and $21 to see a top flight side at 6,000-seat Victoria Road.

Dagenham and Redbridge chairman Paul Gwinn said, “It really will help save our club.”

“So please come on down to the Chigwell Construction Stadium for an additional night of football. Bring a friend, or two, or more and we can use the gate takings to help get us back on track,” reads a press release.

Dag & Red was founded in 1992 and climbed as high as League One in 2011, and plays just 2.5 miles from West Ham United’s training ground. Newcastle’s Matt Ritchie and Dwight Gayle are among Dag & Red alums in the Premier League.

It’s a terrific gesture from West Ham, and is even more impressive in the United States where the growing club game is increasingly cutthroat (especially between non-synced leagues).

Angry Di Francesco extremely quotable after Roma loss

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AS Roma manager Eusebio Di Francesco absolutely roasted his charges after i Lupi tossed aside a Cenzig Under-inspired lead to fall 2-1 at Shakhtar Donetsk in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie on Wednesday.

Di Francesco had praise for Edin Dzeko, who assisted Under’s goal, as well as goalkeeper Alisson, but was mostly enraged by his side.

[ MORE: Recap + Fred’s vicious free kick ]

Rather than construct a narrative, we’re going to point out our five favorite selections from Di Francesco’s post-match talk.

4) “The difference was that in the first half we tried to hurt them while in the second we were looking to hold on – to what? I don’t know.”

— “To what? I don’t know” is hilarious. Di Francesco’s side has posted some serious wins this season, including killing off Chelsea 3-0 at home and coming back from 2-0 to draw the Blues at Stamford Bridge. He doesn’t preach sitting back.

3) “There were far too many schoolboy errors – even by players with a wealth of international experience.”

— Schoolboy errors!

2) “I saw two completely different teams out there today. There were lots of players I should have taken off after we conceded the first goal.”

— Again, one mistake by a number of players on Facundo Ferreyra is enough for Di Francesco. He’s not just happy to be here.

1) “I can’t imagine we’d get arrogant just because we’re winning an important game. It’s not as if Roma are used to reaching the final every year.”

— When you’re willing to essentially rip an entire club’s history — Roma’s been to just two UCL quarterfinals since losing the final to Liverpool in 1984 — you’re putting your footprints in new cement.

Europa League preview: Rating every second leg

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Christian Pulisic and Borussia Dortmund are one of many teams with their UEFA Europa League fates realistically in the balance come Thursday’s second legs of the Round of 32.

[ MORE: Sevilla 0-1 Man Utd | Mourinho reacts ]

Aside from a sextet of big teams posting blowouts, there’s still hope for the Round of 16 and a step closer to an automatic berth in the 2018-19 UEFA Champions League.

Basically done

Atletico Madrid 4-1 Copenhagen — 1 p.m. ET
Sporting Lisbon 3-1 Astana — 1 p.m. ET
Arsenal 3-0 Ostersund — 3:05 p.m. ET
Milan 3-0 Ludogorets Razgrad — 3:05 p.m. ET
Athletic Bilbao 3-1 Spartak Moscow — 3:05 p.m. ET
Braga 0-3 Marseille — 3:05 p.m. ET

In four of these cases, the heavy favorites emerged with multiple goal leads and at least three away goals.

Actually done

CSKA Moscow beat Red Star Belgrade 1-0 on Wednesday to win 1-0 on aggregate.

Unlikely, but big club lurks

RB Leipzig 3-1 Napoli — 1 p.m. ET
Villarreal 1-3 Lyon — 1 p.m. ET

In the case of Napoli, their 3-1 home loss to Leipzig was stunning but it’s impossible to rule out a club with such firepower. Villarreal trails by two to Lyon, but is home and dangerous.

Advantage one side, but anyone’s guess

Lokomotiv Moscow 3-2 Nice — 11 a.m. ET
Lazio 0-1 FCSB — 1 p.m. ET
Zenit Saint-Petersburg 0-1 Celtic — 1 p.m. ET
Red Bull Salzburg 2-2 Real Sociedad — 3:05 p.m. ET
Atalanta 2-3 Borussia Dortmund — 3:05 p.m. ET

Salzburg’s two away goals in a draw feels like a one-goal lead, and the one-goal matches are especially interesting. In the case of Atalanta, 1-0 to the Serie A side could undo Michy Batshuayi‘s first leg heroics for BVB.

Wide open

Plzen 1-1 Partizan Belgrade — 1 p.m. ET
Dynamo Kyiv 1-1 AEK Athens — 1 p.m. ET

Yes, nil-nil will get it done for the hosts, but there wasn’t a 0-0 in the entire group of first legs.