Bradley's early goal helps Toronto FC beat Crew
Columbus Crew midfielder Hector Jimenez, left, kicks against Toronto FC defender Nick Hagglund, right, during the second half of an MLS soccer match in Columbus, Ohio, Saturday, April 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Columbus Dispatch, Sam Greene)
Craig Merz, The Canadian Press
Published Saturday, April 5, 2014 1:27PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, April 5, 2014 9:49PM EDT
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Michael Bradley has a special place in his heart for Columbus Crew Stadium and now his Toronto FC teammates do as well.
Bradley's goal in the 11th minute was enough for TFC to end the Crew's unbeaten run with a 2-0 victory on Saturday.
Bradley scored from a tough angle, beating goalkeeper Steve Clark at the near post with a shot taken two yards from the end line. Substitute Issey Nakajima-Farran added a goal in the 85th minute off a cross by Justin Morrow.
Crew Stadium is where Bradley scored twice for the U.S. national team in a 2-0 victory against Mexico in a World Cup qualifier on Feb. 11, 2011.
"I've been fortunate to get a few goals here," he said. "Great stadium and the atmosphere's always good. So far my record's not bad here."
Bradley played 90 minutes and had a goal and an assist vs. Mexico in 2-2 friendly on Wednesday but showed few effects against Columbus although he was replaced by Jeremy Hall in the 73rd minute.
"The idea is to always go 90," Bradley said. "Physically I started to feel it a bit. The important thing now is to recover and get ready for the weekend."
TFC coach Ryan Nelsen says he was not surprised by Bradley's effort.
"That's Michael," he said. "He has this willingness to grab the game by the scruff of the neck. It's instinctive."
On the goal, Bradley ran onto an entry pass from Mark Bloom on the right side of the box, outpacing Crew midfielder Bernardo Anor. Bradley then startled Clark with a shot that went five-hole.
"At first I was just thinking of getting there before the ball gets out of bounds," Bradley said. "At that point you're looking across. Given the field and the way the goalie is positioned, if I can really nail this ball low and hard it's got a good chance."
The goal was his second in MLS and first with TFC (3-1-0) in his fourth game after returning from Europe. His previous league goal was Oct. 16, 2005, with the New York MetroStars.
TFC was minus several starters, most notably forward Jermain Defoe. He had scored all three of Toronto's goals this season before suffering a hamstring injury in the last match against Real Salt Lake in a 3-0 loss.
Also, defender and captain Steven Caldwell was suspended for the match, midfielder Jonathan Osorio was out because of a hamstring problem and defender Doneil Henry sat due to a knee injury.
TFC did get midfielder Jackson back from suspension and rookie Nick Hagglund, raised two hours south of Columbus in Cincinnati, made his first appearance, starting in the central defence with Bradley Orr.
"He was fantastic," Nelsen said of Hagglund. "I thought the centre backs, Nick and Brad, were incredible. You'd never know that's those guys' first games at centre back in an MLS game."
Hagglund had about 50 family members and friends on hand and said the game was almost perfect.
"I could have scored a couple of goals," he joked. "No, absolutely it was an incredible experience to play in Columbus on this pitch with these guys and get the shutout."
TFC goalkeeper Julio Cesar had critical stops on Bernardo Anor and Tony Tchani in the second half when it was 1-0 to preserve the lead against the Crew (3-1-0) before a crowd of 12,045.
"I attribute this loss to two things, a bad start to the game and to a very well organized Toronto FC," Crew coach Gregg Berhalter said.
Toronto returns to BMO Field April 12 to host the Colorado Rapids.