TORONTO, Ont. - The Reds will look to pick up their first win of the young season when they visit the Lower.com stadium and take on the Columbus Crew on Saturday afternoon. Kick-off is scheduled for 1:30 PM EST and can be watched on TSN.
A promising start in week one went to waste as the Reds were dominated in their home opener last week and exposed Toronto’s weakness, especially in transition. For head coach Bob Bradley, tidying up that part of his squad’s game is important but he understands that it is a process and something his team will need to continue working on.
“I’m just trying to make sure that our players are aware of how these are important concepts that need to be trained every day,” said Bradley, speaking to reporters on Thursday. “So next game, Columbus, we’ll test this in similar ways. They’re not the exact same team as Red Bulls, but still will have fast moments where our ability to control situations when we lose the ball or our ability to take advantage of situations when we win the ball will be key,” continued Bradley.
While understandably it is a work in progress, this week’s opponents, the Columbus Crew will not hesitate to punish the Reds should they have a similar performance. Columbus have scored seven goals through their first two matches in 2022 and have dangerous weapons across the attacking line, which includes Lucas Zelarayán who has found the back of the net three times this season already.
There is plenty of work to be done in cleaning up mistakes in the Reds game, Bradley will need to find a replacement for Carlos Salcedo - who retroactively received a red card for serious foul play in last week’s home opener. Bradley called the suspension “harsh” but is looking at the positives while his best defender is unavailable.
“We’re trying to move players along and that’s how we’re going to become a good team,” said Bob Bradley pre-game. “The key is of course finding ways to take points, finding ways to get some confidence, finding ways to grow from one game to the next,” he continued.
Along with Salcedo, the Reds will be without Ayo Akinola, who continues to work his way back to full fitness, and Jacob Shaffelburg. Shaffelburg has started each of the first two games at left back this season but will be unavailable due to a left leg injury he suffered last week.
The Columbus crew are coming off of a high-scoring, disappointing draw against the San Jose Earthquakes, after surrendering two late goals to 10-man San Jose last week. It was the first time since 2009 that the Crew failed to pick up all three points in a match they were up 2-0 heading into the final 10 minutes. Columbus Head Coach Caleb Porter knows that faltering like the Crew did last week happens in a season and is looking forward to how his team bounces back.
“There are going to be mistakes throughout the year, and it’s about how they respond from them and learn from them. We’re very reflective,” said Porter.
While Columbus will have been disappointed last week, through two games the Crew have scored seven goals - good for joint-best with the New York Red Bulls in the Eastern Conference and third best league wide. In week one, the Crew were able to dispose of the Vancouver Whitecaps in a commanding 4-0 win.
The Crew ended last season strong and have continued that form into 2022. Dating back to last season, the Crew boast an unbeaten record in their last five regular season matches with a 4-0-1 record and have outscored their opponents 15-6.
After missing out on the playoffs last season, and only two season removed from their 2020 MLS Cup triumph, Porter and the Crew know what it will take to reach those heights again. The start of this season has shown that the Crew have playoff ambitions once again.
The Reds and Columbus have been evenly matched throughout their time in the league. While the Crew were victorious in the last meeting between the clubs, the Reds had won the previous two. In their previous meeting in 2021, the Crew claimed all three points through goals from Luis Diaz and Gyasi Zardes, while Ayo Akinola scored the lone goal for the Reds.
Opponent Columbus Crew
Location: Lower.com Stadium, Columbus, OH
Kick-off: 1:30 PM EST