Toronto FC begins a stretch of seven of 10 matches on the road beginning at the red-hot Columbus Crew on Saturday.
The Crew (7-3-4) has four wins in a seven-game unbeaten skein, including five consecutive shutouts totaling 495 minutes without allowing a goal, the eighth-longest streak in MLS history.
In order for Toronto (3-7-1) to have success it must get away from its home-team approach that emphasizes style as much as substance in order to concentrate on the defensive structure necessary against a team as tight as Columbus.
“The last couple seasons, we started on the road with this mentality of defend first, be hard to play against and give up nothing,” Toronto coach Greg Vanney said. “The attacking side came along; the foundation was to defend. We have to get back to this concept, understanding and trusting that the attacking things will come out of our group because we do it well.”
Toronto has battled through unsettled lineups all season and now it’s the Crew’s turn as nearly a half a dozen regulars could miss the match.
However, Crew midfielder Federico Higuain will be eligible after the league Friday rescinded his red card vs. Sporting Kansas City on Sunday. Meanwhile, midfielder Cristian Martinez begins a two-game suspension for an infraction during the same match.
Gone, too, are goalkeeper Zack Steffen and midfielder Wil Trapp, who are with the U.S. National Team for games at Ireland on Saturday and France on June 9
Also, defender Jonathan Mensah and midfielder Pedro Santos are questionable with injuries, adding to the Crew’s angst.
“There will probably be some new faces in the lineup,” Crew coach Gregg Berhalter said. “Every game becomes a difficult game in MLS. I could reference scores across the league. You can never tell and every game you have to prepare like it’s going to be a very hard game.”
—Field Level Media