An under-strength Toronto FC tied Columbus Crew SC 0-0 in Game 1 of the MLS Eastern Conference final Tuesday night, surviving to fight another day.
It was hardly a masterpiece but Toronto, which did not put a shot on target, got the job done. And top-seeded TFC will be able to roll out its big guns — Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco — back from suspension when the series switches to BMO Field on Nov. 29.
But the league leaders achieved their goal of leaving Columbus with something — in this case a platform to finish the job at home. Consider this a bullet dodged.
“Nobody is celebrating anything tonight in here, that’s for sure,” said Toronto captain Michael Bradley, who was prominent on the night. “We handled things in a good way, in a solid professional way.
“We wanted to win the game. Having said that, 0-0 is a result that still means we go back home next week and we’ve got 90 minutes to win a game and get ourselves back in the [MLS Cup] final.”
There is still work to do, however.
“Enjoy it now, it’s a good result for us on the road but everything that happens in this game is null and void if we don’t go take care of business at home,” said Toronto goalkeeper Alex Bono.
Toronto offered little on offence, with a patient safety-first approach that cleared the decks for the series rematch.
The visitors limited fifth-seeded Columbus to just four shots (one on target) in the first half. But the Crew came on strong in the second half, with nine more shots (two on target). Toronto had six shots in the first half and one in the second, all off the mark.
“There was a couple of acceptable results that we’d live with and this was one of them — 0-0 was one of the results we could live with,” said Columbus coach Gregg Berhalter. “As the game wore on you saw how strong we were and how fit we…