It's rivalry night at BMO Field tomorrow as Toronto FC take on the Columbus Crew. Just how much this rivalry still means is debatable, but there is still silverware on the line: the Trillium Cup. Columbus took home last year's trophy by winning the overall series 7 to 3. In fact, Toronto FC has only won the trophy twice in its nine-year existence. The most recent was in 2014.
In order to get a better look at what this year's Trillium Cup will offer, Waking the Red sent some questions to Pat Murphy, who is an editor for the Massive Report, which is SB Nation's Columbus Crew blog. Here are those questions, and who Murphy expects the Crew to start this Saturday against Toronto FC.
1. Kei Kamara was a player who tore apart Toronto's backline in previous meetings, so fans will be happy to see him gone. Who steps into Kamara's spot and what do they bring to the table?
The player who physically steps in for Kamara's vacated spot is Ola Kamara. Yes, Crew SC had two Kamara's on its roster before the trade and both of them are forwards.
Ola is not the same type of player as Kei. He's not as big and therefore not the same type of target forward. Instead, he's the type of player that looks to get in behind the defence, but can also finish crosses (just likely of the lower variety).
While Ola replaces Kei in the lineup, the production will have to be done by the collective. Two seasons ago, before Kei came to Columbus, the team scored just seven fewer goals but the distribution of finishes was more spread out. Players like Ethan Finlay, Federico Higuain, Cedrick Mabwati and Justin Meram will need to increase their statical production to make up for the departure of Kei, but those are all guys who are capable of doing just that.
2. Columbus has yet to win away from home this year. What is it about the team that has made them struggle away from home and how do they turn it around tomorrow?
It's really kind of perplexing. Columbus had chances to win in Portland, Chicago, Dallas, and Seattle, but couldn't close out the games or didn't get the necessary goal. The Black & Gold play the same home or away so it's not a matter of changing anything. This was an issue to begin last year as well and the club was able to figure it out. I think at this point, it's just been a tough set of games on the road, especially for a team that hasn't found its top gear so far this season.
3. From a Columbus perspective, does the rivalry between these two teams really still exist?
I think from a fan perspective, yes although I think it's diminished some. I know there are a lot of Crew SC fans, especially ones who are still relative new who consider Toronto the club's primary rival. The Trillium Cup was the rivalry they were introduced to so that's what they think of first. Many of the older fans still look at the Chicago Fire or D.C. United as the team's main rival, so it kind of depends who you ask.
On the field, I think the rivalry has actually built a bit over the last couple of years as these two teams have become relevant in the league. I don't think this was ever a big deal for most of these players, but now that the sides seem to be consistently contending for playoff spots and such, these games mean a bit more.
Projected Starting Lineup: Clark, Afful, Parkhurst, Sauro, Ashe, Mabwati, Trapp, Saeid, Meram, Higuain, O.Kamara