Crew SC didn’t pass its test against the best team in Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference on Wednesday night, falling 2-1 to Toronto FC on a pair of late goals from Tosaint Ricketts.

As a consolation, goalkeeper Zack Steffen did his homework.

The Crew held a 1-0 lead for more than 50 minutes and a big reason why was Steffen, who knocked away a Jozy Altidore penalty kick in the 38th minute to preserve the goal advantage.

Of course, it was a penalty kick he helped create.

On a ball over the top from Jay Chapman in the 37th minute, Alex Crognale and Jozy Altidore both went up, but Crognale fell, giving Altidore space in the box. Scrambling after Altidore took a touch, Steffen fouled the Toronto forward, setting up a penalty kick.

“I think it kind of just got mangled up with Alex and Jozy and he came through and I thought he was going to one-time hit it and he dribbled around me and I touched him a little bit and the ref called it,” Steffen said.

Steffen called what happened next.

Altidore also took a penalty kick in Toronto’s 1-0 win at Seattle on Saturday. In that attempt, a make in the 23rd minute, Altidore drove a right-footed shot to the right. Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei guessed wrong, diving to his right.

Steffen said he had a “feeling” based Altidore’s recent PK history and correctly anticipated a change, diving to his right while Altidore kicked to the left side of the goal. The ball connected Steffen’s wrists as he denied Altidore’s PK try.

“He took a PK last week so I saw where it went and took a good jump and was able to make the save, fortunately,” he said.

The two goals that got past the 22-year-old – both from Tosaint Ricketts, in the 81st and 90th minutes – were due in large part to defensive breakdowns and left Steffen without much time to react.

In all, Toronto FC finished the night with three shots on goal. Two resulted in goals that put Toronto (6-1-4) on top and Toronto’s only shot on goal in the first half resulted in a spectacular save that for at least a while kept Crew SC in the lead.

“At the end of the day it’s just another day and another opponent and you’re gonna do your best to keep your teammates and the rest of your team in the game,” Steffen said. “But (the save) did feel good.”


The weather held until after the game ended Wednesday night, but the stands at Mapfre Stadium were noticeably sparse throughout.

The announced attendance was 10,318, the lowest total for a Crew MLS home game since March 28, 2015 (10,302).

In seven Crew SC home games this season, the club has cracked 15,000 just twice: on opening day (15,023) and against NYCFC late last month (17,336).

A few factors haven’t necessarily helped early-season attendance.

The club had two home games in March, a rarity in club history.

Crew SC also played its first Wednesday home game this season May 10, significantly earlier than it did last season (July 13) and in 2015 (June 24), 2014 (June 4), 2013 (Sept. 4), 2012 (Aug. 15), 2011 (June 8) and 2010 (July 14). Wednesday’s game marked the Crew’s first Wednesday home game in May since 2009.

The Crew entered the week 21st in the league in average attendance, and a figure of 10,318 won’t help that average.

Crew SC President of Business Operations Andy Loughnane acknowledged the low attendance figure after the game. In an interview with The Dispatch, he thanked the fans that did come to Mapfre Stadium on Wednesday night but recognized the total as “disappointing.”

“Overall, attendance was extremely disappointing and not representative of the effort on the field and off the field,” Loughnane said. “Other midsize markets like Portland, Salt Lake and Kansas City have found a way to get past (challenges), whether it’s weather issues, early-season match issues, three-game homestand issues, Wednesday issues. For us, that’s essential as we attempt to continue to evolve."

In an interview with The Dispatch earlier this season, Loughnane acknowledged improving attendance and fan experience as the club’s next big focuses, having completed a rebrand, a stadium naming rights project and, most recently, a jersey sponsorship agreement with Acura.

Wolff in the box

Crew coach Gregg Berhalter said Tuesday he and his assistants had not yet finalized who would serve as acting head coach while Berhalter served his one-game suspension Wednesday night. Berhalter was ejected in the 78th minute of the Crew’s 2-0 win over New England on Saturday.

The mystery continued in the hour before Wednesday’s game as assistants Josh Wolff, Nico Estevez and Pat Onstad all came out for team warmups in athletic clothes.

Minutes before kickoff, Wolff emerged from the tunnel in dress clothes, indicating his role as acting head coach.

Wolff is regularly mentioned as a candidate for vacant MLS head coaching jobs and knows Berhalter’s system in and out. He was Berhalter’s first coaching hire with Crew SC, his hiring announced Nov. 20, 2013, the same day as director of soccer operations Asher Mendelsohn.

“I think we prepare all week. It’s a lot of dialogue with our staff before the game and in the course of the week for training,” Wolff said of the change Wednesday. “There’s probably a little bit of nervousness, but once you get there, it’s similar to how we run our gamedays. We’re all still active, even as assistant coaches, so we’re giving input to Gregg, to the players (on normal gamedays). I think that (nervousness) subsides when the game gets moving.”

Wolff said the Crew had some chances late in the second half to build on its lead.

“I think we had some opportunities to re-establish the lead, and give Toronto credit. They made plays. The few plays that came their way, they made them,” Wolff said. “For us we missed I think we missed some chances and probably let ourselves down on some defensive chances that we just could have dealt with better. Controlled the game for most of the night, and had some spells where it dipped but I think we’re a little bit surprised to not come away with some points here.”