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Previewing the Enemy: Columbus Crew Meeting the Second

Waking the Red catches up with Massive Report to talk about today's match between Toronto FC and the Columbus Crew.

Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports

The second half of Toronto FC's season officially kicks off tonight as they travel to Ohio to take on the Columbus Crew. It is also the second game of the Trillium Cup, which is all tied up 0-0 after the first match between the two sides.

How have things gone for the Crew since the two sides last met? Waking the Red caught up with Massive Report, SB Nation's Columbus Crew blog, to talk about today's match. Here's what we asked them.

1. Ola Kamara is the hottest scorer in MLS right now it seems, how can Toronto FC hope to contain him tomorrow?

It's interesting because Ola has shown an ability to score in so many different ways in his seven starts and 11 games played. He's definitely different than Kei in that he's not as big and doesn't possess that athletic ability, but he still has the capability to poach in front of goal. He's also able to create for himself some and is pretty good with the ball at his feet. In the last two games, we've seen him make runs that open up a through ball from the centre of the park which he has tucked away.

Right now, everything is working for Ola; it's as simple as that. If I were to name one thing the TFC defence can do to keep him off the scoreboard, it would be to keep him from getting the ball in the 18-yard box. If the Reds can keep a high line and not let Columbus find ways behind (either out wide or playing Ola through) it limits how dangerous he can be.

While I said above he can create for himself, he's not Giovinco or some of the rather clever players with the ball. He's good enough to keep possession, but he's not going to beat a few guys, get into the box, and score. Keep him away from goal and you likely keep him out of the net.

2. Briefly, if the Crew want to have any hope of making the playoffs, what do they have to improve in the second half of the season, and why has it gone so wrong after a solid year last season?

I'm going to answer the second question first. Last season, while great, was a bit of a fluke. Crew SC was a flawed team that got a career year from Kei Kamara and some solid play from Ethan Finlay (might have been his career year too). The offence throughout the year was good enough to keep the team in a pretty good position and the defence managed to slow the leaks come playoff time.

Another advantage Columbus had last year was health. There were very few injuries to the Black & Gold, and even fewer to key players, and it allowed for chemistry to build and be sustained throughout the season and obviously have the best players on the field.

This year, health has not been in Crew SC's favour. Multiple starters have missed time including Federico Higuain. This team has dealt with strange injuries such as a PCL tear, sports hernia surgery, and a player suffering from malaria. These aren't excuses the team wants to use, but those are reasons things haven't gone as well.

As for what it would take for the team to make the playoffs, I think there are several answers. First, scoring needs to come from more places. As mentioned above, Ola Kamara is carrying the load right now while Finlay, Justin Meram and other aren't getting the job done. Finlay was even benched at one point but has been reinstated back in the lineup due to a lack of other options.

Also, this defence needs to get healthy. With Gaston Sauro back there, the defence is better and he and Michael Parkhurst have formed a solid chemistry that makes the defence good enough. Finally, the team needs more from Wil Trapp. Two good years have let the league know who the midfielder is, but he's giving the ball away far too often in 2016 and some of those have led directly to goals. While I wouldn't say he's regressed, it's time for him to either begin to become the next Michael Bradley or not.

Can they do it? Yes, but as the team is saying this week, that turnaround has to start with this game.

3. Coming up is the most home game heavy part of Columbus's schedule. How important is starting it off with three points against Toronto, who I might add they play twice in the next four matches?

The players have used words like "huge," "important," and "must win" when talking about this game. It begins two home games against Eastern Conference teams this week followed by another at MAPFRE Stadium next Saturday, as you mentioned. With Toronto bringing in a less-than-full-strength squad, anything but three points in this game would be very disappointing. While the team will find a way to spin a draw or a loss as not the end of the world, it could be the end of a lot of people's beliefs in what was expected to be another good season in central Ohio.

Projected Starting Lineup:

Injuries: Higuain (sports hernia surgery) is out, Sauro (PCL tear) is out and Conor Casey (knee sprain) is listed as doubtful but it sounds like he is out as well.