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Preview: Reds welcome Crew to town for chilly home opener

Bob Bradley’s squad aiming for first win of the season.

Kosi Thompson goes up against former Crew player Pedro Santos during a match at BMO Field in June 2022.
Sean Pollock/Waking The Red

Get ready to pull out those hand warmers and wool socks ... because the Reds are returning to BMO Field! Toronto FC will be in search for their first win of the season when they welcome the Columbus Crew to town for the 2023 home opener on Saturday evening.

The weather forecasts predict sub-zero temperatures for Toronto on Saturday evening in what will be TFC’s first match in front of their own fans since a 1-0 defeat to Inter Miami on September 30, 2022. The Reds began their 2023 campaign on the road, first falling to D.C. United and then scraping a point in Atlanta. Returning to the city, Bob Bradley and his players will look to get in the win column for the first time in a longtime.

TFC has failed to win a match since August 2022, something fans are eager to see change in a long-awaited return to the shores of Lake Ontario. Last week’s 1-1 draw to Atlanta United brought the team a much-needed boost after a devastating collapse in the season opener. Following that up with a win at home could kickstart the season for what should be a competitive Toronto team.

The performance at Mercedes-Benz Stadium was far from perfect from a TFC perspective, but the team displayed defensive resilience in front of confident goalkeeping, something rarely seen in 2022. Atlanta dominated the possession and put considerable pressure on Toronto’s backline throughout the 90 minutes, but a new-look defence (and some Sean Johnson heroics) meant that TFC escaped with one point in their pocket.

The second match of the season brought with it more bad news on the injury front though. Strikers Adama Diomande and Ayo Akinola were both substituted out with hamstring injuries in a match which neither Lorenzo Insigne or Victor Vazquez participated in.

Insigne will likely return to the pitch in some capacity, and Vazquez could make his first start for TFC since October 2018. Diomande and Akinola will both miss the home opener however, opening the door for one of Hugo Mbongue or Jordan Perruzza to start. If Insigne is deemed fit enough to start, Bradley could also change things up by shifting the Italian international to centre-forward in order to make room on the wing for Vazquez.

Bob Bradley mans the touchline during a match against FC Cincinnati at BMO Field in April 2022.
Sean Pollock/Waking The Red

Visiting BMO Field on Saturday will be Toronto’s Trillium Cup rivals, the Columbus Crew. After dropping both league meetings to Columbus last season, Toronto has the chance beat their familiar foe for the first time in four matches.

After missing out on last year’s postseason, the Crew are eyeing a bounce-back season in the Eastern Conference. Trying to help his team achieve just that is Armenian international Lucas Zelarayan, who is already in fine form this season. The winger scored both of his club’s goals in a 2-0 win over D.C. United last week, earning MLS Player of the Matchday honours.

Former CF Montréal boss Wilfried Nancy oversees a talented Columbus team which also includes goalkeeper Eloy Room, defender Milos Degenek, and striker Cucho Hernandez. Hernandez, Columbus’ newest Designated Player, joined the club last summer from Watford. The Colombian, who got the assist on Zelarayan’s first tally last weekend, has the talent to be one of the league’s best forwards this season. He will be one to watch in Toronto as he aims to net his first goal of 2023.

Columbus will bring a small Canadian contingent when they travel north of the border, as the Crew have Canucks Mohamed Farsi and Jacen Russell-Rowe on their roster. The two Canadians have made the jump to MLS after featuring heavily for Columbus Crew 2 during the team’s title-winning 2022 MLS Next Pro season. Farsi, a Montreal native and former Cavalry FC defender, has started the opening two matches for the Crew at right wing-back. Russell-Rowe meanwhile is viewed as the backup to Hernandez at striker. The TFC academy product and 2022 MLS Next Pro MVP will look to make an impact off the bench in his hometown.

Predicted Lineups

Toronto FC: Johnson; Petretta, Rosted, Hedges, Laryea; Kaye, Bradley, Osorio; Insigne, Mbongue, Bernardeschi

Columbus Crew: Room; Quinton, Degenek, Moreira; Yeboah; Morris, Nagbe, Farsi; Zelarayan, Hernandez, Matan

Game Notes

  • TFC is winless in their past eight matches
  • TFC has lost by a 2-1 scoreline in their last three matches against the Crew

Match Details

Opponent: Columbus Crew

Kickoff time: 7:30 pm ET

Watch: MLS Season Pass

Stadium: BMO Field, Toronto, Ont.