TORONTO -- Dominic Oduro scored late in the first half as the Columbus Crew continued their MLS mastery over Toronto FC with a 1-0 win Saturday.
Argentine playmaker Federico Higuain pulled the strings for the Crew, setting up Oduro's 42nd-minute goal after hitting the Toronto woodwork twice in the first half. The Columbus captain/designated player was clearly the class of the afternoon.
Toronto had its chances early but looked wooden in front of goal. In an attempt to boost the attack, manager Ryan Nelsen brought on Bobby Convey to open the second half and fellow newcomer Jeremy Brockie in the 64th minute.
The good news for Nelsen? Dutch striker Danny Koevermans, returning from knee suregery, was slated to make his return in the reserve match that followed the game.
Convey did offer some creativity from the flank and dead-ball situations, while young Argentine midfielder Matias Laba showed flashes of his skills for Toronto. But the home side never really looked energized on the day. Brockie headed wide in stoppage time.
Oduro broke the stalemate late in the first half, using his speed to beat Doneil Henry on a Higuain through ball and then flicking the ball with his right boot past Toronto 'keeper Joe Bendik. It was the fifth goal of the season for the Ghanaian.
Columbus has never lost at BMO Field, posting a record of 2-0-5 here. Toronto has beaten the Crew just once in 17 career meetings, a 4-2 decision in September 2011 at Columbus Crew Stadium. TFC's all-time record against the Crew is a miserable 1-9-7.
Toronto (1-6-4) has lost five straight in all competitions during which it has been outscored 12-2. And it is suffering through a nine-game winless streak in MLS play.
The struggling club has just two wins in 13 outings in all competitions this season and is 1-16-8 in its last 25 MLS matches dating back to July 28, 2012.
Toronto's only previous home win this season came at the Rogers Centre on March 9, a 2-1 win over Sporting Kansas City. Its last victory at BMO Field was July 18, 2012, when it defeated Colorado 2-1.
Columbus (4-4-3) came into the game having lost its last two outings and had just one win in its last six matches. Plus, the Crew had been shut out in three of its last four matches, with just one goal scored in the other.
The two teams had combined for just four goals in their last four matches.
Saturday's game, played under bright sunshine but a stiff breeze, was the lone home game for TFC in May. Toronto was coming off a 10-day break. But someone hit the mute button on the crowd -- announced at 18,278 -- for large portions of the game.
Toronto started newly acquired Scottish defender Steven Caldwell at the heart of its defence with Henry, moving captain Darren O'Dea to left fullback.
TFC was without injured defenders Richard Eckersley, Logan Emory, Gale Agbossoumonde and Darel Russell, and midfielders Hogan Ephraim and Terry Dunfield.
Still the Toronto starting 11 offered a trip round the world with players from Canada (Henry), Argentina, Bermuda, Ireland, Scotland, the U.S. and Wales.
Columbus was missing injured defender Chad Marshall, defender-midfielder Danny O'Rourke and midfielder Agustin Viana as well as suspended forward Jairo Arrieta.
Eric Gehrig replaced Marshall in his first outing of the season.
Toronto striker Robert Earnshaw has some early looks at goal but just couldn't get a good shot on Andy Gruenebaum. Still Earnshaw's speed troubled the makeshift defence of the visitors.
Higuain beat Bendik from 25 yards out in the 19th minute but the ball slammed off the crossbar. Higuain, whose younger brother Gonzalo Higuain plays striker for Real Madrid, then hit the left post in the 33rd minute.
In the 22nd minute, Earnshaw dribbled past two Columbus defenders but could only manage a weak shot. Minutes later Luis Silva failed to find the target from a good spot.
Braun had a glorious chance in the 38th minute after Silva, heading an Earnshaw cross back across goal, found him alone in front of the Columbus 'keeper. But the tall forward amazingly shot wide. Braun was substituted after 45 minutes.
Toronto's woes in front of goalie continued as Silva was unable to get a boot on a ball in front of goal in the dying seconds of the first half.
Oduro shot wide midway through the second half, after Earnshaw squandered a foray into the penalty box at the other end.
An Earnshaw free kick from a good position just outside the top of the box in the 75th minute went right at the Columbus 'keeper.
NOTES -- Toronto FC president Kevin Payne complained earlier in the week that his team was seeing too many novice referees this season. Saturday's ref was Jose Carlos Rivero, who came into the game with 12 MLS matches under his belt ... Saturday's game marked Italian Heritage Night.