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Toronto FC satisfied with scoreless Eastern Conference first leg - Vanney

Despite a late rally by Columbus, an opening goal eluded both sides, and they head back to Toronto for a decisive second leg.
Julie Stewart-Binks catches up with Michael Bradley after Toronto FC managed a scoreless first leg at Columbus.

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Toronto FC manager Greg Vanney said Tuesday's 0-0 draw against the Columbus Crew in the first leg of the Eastern Conference finals "isn't a perfect result" but one that puts his side in good position where it just needs to win at home in the second leg.

With forwards Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco suspended for the match, Toronto came out in an uncharacteristic four-man backline after playing 3-5-2 for the vast majority of the season. Vanney stuck with the formation for the first 70 minutes or so before reverting to three at the back.

"[We changed it] just to find ways to be more aggressive to deal with certain numbers around the field; to be able to oppose them a little bit higher and not be so deep when we deal with them," said Vanney.

The formation was effective for much of the night as Toronto was able to keep Columbus bottled up. But the home side ratcheted up the pressure in the game's latter stages, and Harrison Afful nearly grabbed a late winner only to be denied by a superb save from TFC keeper Alex Bono.

Columbus Crew SCColumbus Crew SC
Toronto FCToronto FC
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"I think when you're on the playoffs and on the road, you're going to need your goalkeeper to come up with something, especially when you play against good attacking teams, and Columbus is that," said Vanney.

"And I thought all night Alex was in good spots. He was in good spots to deal with crosses, to take things out of the air, to grab some things to hold onto them so we could push our lines up, and I though the save is an important save in the game."

TFC captain Michael Bradley was booed much of the night, a common occurrence ever since the U.S. was eliminated from World Cup qualifying. But Vanney said he didn't think the verbal attention impacted Bradley in any way.

"I think [Bradley] is probably pretty focused on just whatever his job is and the task," said Vanney. "At this point I'm pretty sure he thinks nothing of it."

TFC will welcome back Altidore and Giovinco for the second leg, and while Vanney said the duo will make Toronto "an entirely different team" he stopped short of saying it will give his side an edge.

"I think our ability to connect off the front line, our ability to have both more playmakers, goal-scorers, difference makers, they add something entirely different," he said.

"Also it will add something different for [Columbus] in terms of what they have to deal with. I don't know how much that gives us an edge, or whatever, but I know we're a different team when they're on the field."

Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.

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