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COLUMBUS, Ohio (Reuters) - Big-spending Toronto FC lost 2-0 to Columbus Crew in Major League Soccer on Saturday after being forced to play the second half with 10 men.
The Canadian side had defender Justin Morrow sent off a minute before half-time when referee David Gantar ruled that the full-back had brought down Ethan Finley on the edge of the area.
Video replays suggested, however, that Morrow had won the ball with his sliding tackle and Toronto players furiously protested the decision but to no avail.
Columbus, playing intelligent, sharp, passing soccer through midfield, took full advantage of having an extra man and grabbed the lead in the 57th minute when Finlay’s cross was headed in by Justin Meram.
Four minutes later Kei Kamara doubled the home side’s advantage, the Sierra Leone forward getting on the end of Waylon Francis's cross to slot home from close range.
Toronto, who have yet to make the playoffs since joining the league in 2007, invested heavily in the off-season, bringing in Sebastian Giovinco from Juventus and Jozy Altidore from Sunderland.
They also brought in midfielder Michael Bradley from AS Roma midway through last season. The trio are among the biggest earners in MLS but were unable to provide much of a threat to a solid Columbus defense well-marshalled by Emanuel Pogatetz.
While the red card clearly changed the game, Toronto skipper Bradley said he was more disappointed by the way the team failed to deliver their best.
"I still felt that we were going to be able to control things in a smart way and still find our chances to play and get opportunities of our own," he said.
"I just don’t think in the decisive moments in the second half, at both ends, that we were good enough."
In other MLS games, the Seattle Sounders, fancied by many as favorites for the title this year, suffered a shock 3-2 home defeat to San Jose Earthquakes, who also played for a long spell with a man down.
Clint Dempsey opened the scoring for Seattle in the first minute before Chris Wondolowski scored twice for San Jose, who then had Victor Bernardez sent off in the 52nd minute.
San Jose striker Innocent Emeghara made it 3-1 in the 70th minute and despite an 84th minute goal from Seattle's Obafemi Martins, the Earthquakes held on for the three points.
Blas Perez scored twice for FC Dallas in their 3-1 victory over 2013 MLS champions Sporting Kansas City, while an 86th minute penalty from Alvaro Saborio gave Real Salt Lake a 3-3 draw at home to the Philadelphia Union.
Fernando Aristeguieta scored twice for the visitors. Octavio Rivero’s 86th-minute strike gave the Vancouver Whitecaps a 1-0 win at the Chicago Fire.
On Sunday, New York City FC host New England Revolution while defending champions LA Galaxy travel to face the Portland Timbers.
Editing by Peter Rutherford