The Trillium Cup will be on the line tomorrow night when Toronto FC heads just south of the border for a meeting with the Columbus Crew. The match was pushed back to allow the Crew more time to properly deal with the tragic death of Kirk Urso. The Crew have claimed a pair of draws since returning to action but will be looking to get back into the win column against TFC and reclaim the massive cup.
That cup headed north of the border for the first time in the history of the rivalry last season but having claimed a 1-0 win at BMO earlier this season they Crew are clearly in the driver's seat to regain it. The final two meetings of the year will take place at Crew Stadium but if the Crew can win this match they would reclaim the prize with a game to spare.
Montreal have obviously stolen a lot of this 'rivalry's thunder, and surely there's someone else the Crew can hate, but it is still a rivalry though not always the most competitive. It has generally been quite one sided with TFC only claiming one win in the fourteen meetings between the clubs. That only win was a big one though as TFC claimed a surprising and very entertaining 4-2 win at Crew stadium last year. To repeat that feat they will be up against it though, as the Crew are a team that is looking to make a push towards the playoff spots.
Toronto of course is already at the playing for pride section of the season, and the Trillium Cup is probably the only 'achievement' still available to them in the league. For meaningful games The Reds will be looking forward to their massive CCL date Santos Laguna which is only a week away. There is also a difficult trip to BBVA Compass stadium and the Houston Dynamo to deal with on the weekend so player management will be key for Paul Mariner in this one.No matter who Paul Mariner puts out there The side that will take the field for the second meeting of the season will be quite different from the one that the Crew faced early in the season. The last time the two teams met the Reds were still under the guidance of Aron Winter, and Julian De Guzman, Nick Soolsma, Joao Plata, and Junior Burgos all featured. Those players are now all gone for the club and if you throw in the fact that Danny Koevermans is now injured you get a lot of change to that lineup.
Toronto will be looking towards the likes of Eric Hassli, Ryan Johnson, and Luis Silva to match the offense of the Crew and to do that they are going to have to break down one of the stingiest defensive groups in the league. Only Sporting Kansas City have conceded fewer times this season than the Crew's 24 goals against in 22 games. The problem for the Crew has been scoring goals at the other end of the field but with Federico Higuaín in line to possibly make his first start for the club that could provide just the spark they need.
You would expect this match to be a tight affair much like when the two teams met at BMO Field. That means that when Toronto does get a half chance they need to find a way to get the ball past Andy Gruenebaum which is never an easy task. Being clinical in front of goal is not really what Johnson and Hassli are known for though which makes things tough against teams that are so responsible defensively.
At the other end of the pitch, with the Crew unlikely to concede many goals in this game the back line for Toronto is going to have to be equal to them. Toronto can't afford to concede that sloppy goal that has plagued them so many times this season if they want to come away with anything. If Higuain does get his first start for the Crew he will certainly be a handful for the centre backs. If Mariner does go with Darren O'Dea and Richard Eckersley in the middle of the defensive line he will need both to be sharp at all times and hopefully O'Dea will be able to marshall the back four even better now that he has had more time to train with his new team mates.
This game will probably be the first real good look that TFC fans will have at O'Dea. His last start came on the back end of a busy week of travel that saw him involved in a friendly for Ireland and it showed as he faded towards the end of the match. You could also tell that he was in need of more training time with his new team to really gel as a part of the squad. This time around he should be more rested and will have had the chance to get a few good days of practice in with the team so hopefully he will start to show exactly why Mariner was so pleased to be able to sign him.
With the Trillium Cup on the line this game will almost certainly be hotly contested but I doubt we will see a repeat of last years explosive display from TFC in their 4-2 win. I hope they prove me wrong but I expect this game to be a cagey and low scoring affair with the winner being the team who makes the most of their few good chances or makes the other team pay for a mistake.