COLUMBUS, Ohio - Columbus Crew manager Gregg Berhalter called Tuesday's 0-0 tie against Toronto FC in the first leg of the Eastern Conference finals one of the "acceptable results" that he could live with heading into next week's second leg at BMO Field.
"I think overall it was a good game, it was a tactical game," said Berhalter. "It was a difficult match, a typical game where it's going to be decided by something small. And you see that a lot in semifinals and first legs, and I think that was the case tonight."
The Crew started out slowly, in part due to an unexpected formation change on the part of TFC that saw the visitors open with a four-back alignment instead of the usual 3-5-2.
But Columbus had more success in the second half, with Ola Kamara having a goal-bound shot cleared by TFC defender Drew Moor. Justin Meram and Kekuta Manneh also went close before Harrison Afful had his late effort superbly saved by TFC keeper Alex Bono.
"What they were doing with their buildup in midfield was causing us problems," said Berhalter about TFC's first half performance.
"We made some adjustments, and we were able to get much better pressure on the ball in the second half which in general led to us being more aggressive. I think the second half was good."
The Crew's strong finish leaves Berhalter confident that the his side can grab a precious away goal in the second leg, despite the fact that TFC will welcome back forwards Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco, both of whom were suspended for the first leg.
"As the game went on you saw how strong we were and how fit we were," said Berhalter. "I think that's going to bode well in the second leg, because we have a really fit team in here, and we can keep going and keep pushing, like you saw in Atlanta as well."
Columbus will be without central midfielder Artur, who picked up a caution that will result in him being suspended for the second leg due to yellow card accumulation. He'll likely be replaced in the lineup by Mohammed Abu, who filled in for Artur during the second leg of the Eastern Conference semifinals against New York City FC.
"We'll miss [Artur], there's no question," said Berhalter. "He's quality, he covers a lot of ground. I think the good thing is that Mohammed has played lately and he's done a good job. He did a good in New York and he'll do a good job again if his number is called."
Columbus was shutout for the third time in four postseason matches, but Berhalter said he's not concerned.
He said, "We're relatively happy with the chances that we're creating...To me, at this stage, it's just about advancing and hosting the MLS Cup final."