TORONTO – The Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs Eastern Conference Finals ended in favor of Toronto FC thanks to a second-half goal by forward Jozy Altidore. Columbus Crew SC played the Reds to a hard-fought 1-0 match that was enough for Toronto to advance after a scoreless first leg in Columbus.
Crew SC finished the 2017 MLS regular season 16-12-6 (54 points) as the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference before eliminating No. 4 seed Atlanta United FC in the Knockout Round and No. 2 seed New York City FC in the Conference Semifinals. Toronto FC finished a historic 2017 with a Supporters’ Shield-winning 20-5-9 campaign with a all-time high 69 points.
Altidore’s goal came in the 60th minute when he and midfielder Victor Vazquez executed a give and go maneuver deep inside the Black & Gold end. Altidore took the final pass on the right side and slotted it far post to put Toronto ahead 1-0.
Toronto will go on to host the 2017 MLS Cup on Dec. 9 against either the Houston Dynamo or Seattle Sounders FC. Seattle currently leads 2-0 on aggregate goals after two away scores in leg 1.
The match marked the end of Crew SC’s season and postseason run after advancing on penalty kicks in the knockout round over Atlanta United and outlasting New York City FC on its way to the conference semifinals.
Forward Ola Kamara led Crew SC in regular season goals with 18, while midfielder Federico Higuain led in assists with 14. Goalkeeper Zack Steffen recorded 98 saves and nine clean sheets during the 2017 campaign.
Venue: BMO Field (Toronto, ON, Canada)
Referee: Ismail Elfath
Assistant Referees: Frank Anderson, Corey Rockwell
4th Official: Baldomero Toledo
Video Assistant Referee: Drew Fischer
60’ – TOR – Jozy Altidore (Victor Vazquez)
TOR – Michael Bradley (Caution) 78’
CLB – Jonathan Mensah (Caution) 86’
Columbus Crew SC: Zack Steffen; Lalas Abubakar (Kekuta Manneh 73’), Josh Williams, Jonathan Mensah, Harrison Afful; Mohammed Abu (Adam Jahn 80’), Wil Trapp (c); Justin Meram, Federico Higuain, Pedro Santos (Hector Jimenez 85’); Ola Kamara
Substitutes not used: Brad Stuver, Alex Crognale, Jukka Raitala, Niko Hansen
Toronto FC: Alexander Bono; Justin Morrow, Chris Mavinga, Drew Moor, Eriq Zavaleta (Marco Delgado 46’), Steven Beitashour; Victor Vazquez, Michael Bradley (c), Jonathan Osorio (Nick Hagglund 81’); Sebastian Giovinco, Jozy Altidore (Armando Cooper 68’)
Substitutes not used: Tosaint Ricketts, Clint Irwin, Nicolas Hasler, Raheem Edwards
Steffen caps record year with PK save
Columbus goalkeeper Zack Steffen vanquished a Vazquez penalty kick attempt during the 25th minute after defender Josh Williams was called for a foul on a corner kick attempt by Toronto. Steffen dove to his right and saved the fourth penalty kick of his career, with the first coming against Toronto earlier this season. His four are most in a single most in a season (including playoffs) since 2010 in the MLS.
Again and again
Seven of 13 spot kick attempts against Crew SC’s Steffen have ended unsuccessful, including the shootout attempts taken during the Black & Gold’s scoreless knockout-round victory over Atlanta United FC.
A body of work
Since the beginning of the playoffs, no other goalkeeper has registered more saves, faced more shots, or faced more shots on target than Steffen. Steffen has registered 19 saves dating back to Crew SC’s Eastern Conference Knockout Round match against Atlanta United FC (October 26), facing a total of 75 shots with 23 of those shots being on target. This is Steffen’s first year of play for the Black & Gold, as well as his first year in the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs.