Crew SC had a lead and control of the game for nearly 80 minutes Wednesday night against Toronto FC, Major League Soccer’s hottest team for more than three weeks.
It was the final 10 that mattered.
Toronto had defeated Chicago, Houston, Orlando and Seattle entering the game, winning a 2016 MLS Cup rematch Saturday at Seattle without some of its top playmakers, including Sebastian Giovinco.
By game’s end in front of 10,318 at Mapfre Stadium, the Crew found itself the newest addition to that list of victims, allowing two goals to Tosaint Ricketts after the 80th minute to lose 2-1.
>> The Dispatch's Andrew Erickson, Michael Arace and Tom Reed break down the game.
“I’m still kind of shocked a little bit. It hurts,” Crew goalkeeper Zack Steffen said. “It’s going to take a little bit to get over this one. But hey, it’s soccer, that’s life and that’s the game we play.”
The Crew was without coach Gregg Berhalter, suspended after being ejected from a game Saturday, and led by assistant Josh Wolff, yet it nearly pulled off its second victory of the season against Toronto FC.
The Crew remains the only team to defeat Toronto this season but has done it just once. It came within inches of doing it a second time.
Midfielder Justin Meram had a good look in the 79th minute after shaking free of a defender but missed just wide of the far post.
“So close,” Meram said. “I put that away it’s 2-0, game over, three points.”
The Crew still had a lead but lost it two minutes later. Assisted by Raheem Edwards, Ricketts drew Toronto (6-1-4) even in the 81st. Nine minutes later, Victor Vazquez set Ricketts up for the winner, and the Crew came away empty-handed.
The finish had a much different feel than the first half, in which a one-goal lead for Crew SC (5-5-1) boiled down to opposite outcomes on opposite ends of the field from the penalty spot.
Midfielder Federico Higuain converted a penalty kick on a chip shot in the 28th minute to put the Crew ahead 1-0, an advantage Toronto nearly wiped away 10 minutes later.
Steffen took down Jozy Altidore in the box to earn a yellow card in the 37th minute and set up a penalty kick. Steffen denied Altidore again a minute later, this time legally. The 22-year-old keeper dove to his right to knock away an Altidore penalty kick.
It was a shining moment on a night in which a lot went right for the Crew against one of the best teams in MLS.
“Controlled the game for most and had some spells where it dipped, but I think we’re a little bit surprised to not come away with some points here,” Wolff said.