Toronto FC are set to face one of their oldest rivals, the Columbus Crew, and will need a result if they hope to avoid missing the MLS playoffs for the second year in a row. The 34th regular season MLS meeting between the two clubs is the most in TFC history - but the stakes are always changing.
Former TFC architect Tim Bezbatchenko left the club in the now infamous off-season of 2018, and is President of his hometown Crew. The fate of the team leaving town is no longer at the top of concerns for Columbus faithful, but at this point, neither are the playoffs. The Crew are 7 points adrift of the final playoff spot in the East and have only the expansion FC Cincinnati between themselves and the floor.
This Toronto team, which has been flirting with the red playoff line all summer will need to pick up points in Columbus if they hope to convert their final 9 league matches into the points required for a ticket to the MLS Cup playoffs.
Here’s a couple numbers I’ll be keeping my eyes on.
RIVALS DOWN THE ROAD
TFC have never experienced extended periods of joy when visiting their Eastern Conference rivals in Ohio. This will be the 8th trip to Columbus during the Greg Vanney Era of TFC - a sample that yields just a single win, but also only a pair of defeats.
The four draws have come with drama, though - including the scoreless affair in Leg 1 of the Eastern Conference Final en route to the 2017 MLS Cup Championship. In fact, Columbus was the site of TFC’s first 3-goal comeback AND first blown 3-goal lead (which happened on their last visit).
TFC used the summer transfer window to add a pair of TAM wingers, replace their backup striker and solidify the backline. But there’s a reason to think that the club will ultimately go as far as Jozy Altidore and Alejandro Pozuelo can take them.
Altidore and Pozuelo have started 10 matches together, and after TFC earned 17 of 24 available points in their first 8 matches together, the duo have been kept off the scoresheet in the past two and the club has only 1 point to show for it.
There are a couple personal milestones on the horizon for the club.
If Drew Moor gets the start in Columbus, he’ll become the 8th Red to start 100 competitive matches with the club.
And Eriq Zavaleta’s next match (start or sub) will be his 100th regular season match for the club - also becoming the 8th man to reach the mark.
And finally, Patrick Mullins became the 100th man to score for TFC in MLS play (regular season and playoff) last week vs. Orlando City. Of that list, 99 of have scored in the regular season (only Armando Cooper has a post-season only account.) The next man to open his account for Toronto in the next 9 league matches will be the 100th Red to score in regular season league play.