It has been a two-and-a-half weeks since Toronto FC took on the Columbus Crew, but a lot has happened in that time for the two clubs. Toronto FC has seen the return of Jozy Altidore, the signing of Tosaint Ricketts and the return to form of Sebastian Giovinco. They are coming off of their biggest win of the season, 4-1 to DC United.
The Columbus Crew, on the other hand, have continued to be one of the worst clubs in Major League Soccer, and have not won in their last eight matches. Waking the Red caught up with Massive Report, SB Nation's Columbus Crew blog, to see what has been happening in Ohio lately.
1. Since Toronto FC last played the Columbus Crew they have made a pair of additions, what do you know about these players and do you expect them to feature on Sunday?
Neither will play Sunday. Center back Nicolai Næss is in a similar mold to Michael Parkhurst as a ball-playing defender. This fits well with what Columbus wants to do under Gregg Berhalter, as they look to possess out of the back. According to scouting reports, he is a player that's willing to lay his body on the line to keep the ball out of the net. Considering the issues Crew SC has keeping the opponent off the scoresheet, his addition could be a welcomed one. Fortunately for TFC, his work visa is not in yet so he is not available for this game.
As for Zack Steffen, he is a young goalkeeper who the Black & Gold have an eye on for the future. Steve Clark is firmly cemented in between the pipes for Crew SC and while some fans believe he's been part of the issue, the coaching staff does not agree. It's likely that if there was not a season-ending injury to rookie third-string goalkeeper Matt Pacifici, this move would not have been made at this point. Steffen comes with good reviews, but is not ready to takeover the job.
2. Wil Trapp was in San Jose on Thursday for the MLS All-Star game, do you expect him to be available for Sunday's match despite the travel?
It shouldn't be an issue. I asked Berhalter about it on Friday and he didn't seem to think too much of Trapp's 45 minutes. He's obviously a regular for Columbus so missing a few days of training won't cause any issues. The flight shouldn't be an issue either. Trapp is young and durable and unless he picked up an unknown injury in the match, should start in the centre of the park for the Black & Gold.
3. The club's winless streak has now reached a shocking eight games, has there been a common thread in these dropped results or is this team just falling apart now that the playoffs seem further and further away?
The common theme has stretched all season. This team can't seem to capitalise on enough chances on one side of the ball and breaks down at key moments defensively. A look back at his last meeting illustrates this. Crew SC had 10 shots, but only four were on goal. Of those four, they were only able to convert 1. On the other side, after going up a goal that seemed to take control of the match, they let a Toronto team that had little interest in scoring get on the board and three points at home became one.
The injuries to Federico Higuain and Gaston Sauro (not to mention the trade of Kei Kamara) have certainly played their part, but they aren't big enough losses to explain the poor season as a whole. Higuain returned off the bench last week and could be in line for a starting role in this match as the Black & Gold try to cling to playoff hopes rather early in the season.
Projected Columbus Crew Starting Lineup:
Injuries/ Absences etc.: Gaston Sauro remains out after PCL surgery. Conor Casey is also still out with a knee issue.