The final match of the 2014 Trillium Cup, presented by Scotts is set to be played at Crew Stadium on Saturday, and although the Black & Gold have already dropped the Cup to Toronto FC this season, a more important reward is on the line: three massive points in an increasingly crowded Eastern Conference MLS Cup Playoff picture.
Both Toronto FC and the Crew are two of the five sides currently above the red line in the East standings. Although the third-place Reds are just two points ahead of the Black & Gold, their two games in hand provide an advantage moving forward.
The Crew has a gigantic opportunity to start its three-match homestand with a result on Kirk Urso Memorial Night that could mean the difference in an MLS Cup playoff spot come October against a side it has come to know very well.
"I think Toronto is a really good team – some really good players, some world-class players," said Ethan Finlay. "They play a pretty direct style of soccer, something that's going to be a challenge for us, but we have to be able to meet that. From our side, offensively, I think we feel pretty good about it. We've created a lot of chances against them. I think it will be a good match-up."
The Crew also has a reunion on tap with former forward Dominic Oduro, who was traded to Toronto FC earlier in the year.
"We get to face Dominic again. He's been on fire lately, I've been watching him," said Aaron Schoenfeld. "They're a talented team. We want to show how much talent we have."
"Dom has done great," added Gregg Berhalter. "The thing about it is that he's in a system that's comfortable for him. You see that he can perform when he's in a system where he's comfortable. We know his speed, we know his pace, we know he's going to be motivated – Waylon has done a good job in the past against him [in practice] so we're confident he can continue to do that."
Both sides have changed drastically since the clubs' last meeting in late May, which is something that Berhalter acknowledged and said would make this match a bit different to prepare for. Jermain Defoe is also out for the Reds, a fact that the Crew boss admitted helped his side.
"We're obviously not happy that they've beaten us twice so far this year," said Berhalter. "We're going to prepare and try to go out and win a game. We know it's a good team. We know they have some of the top players in the League. Thankfully Jermain Defoe's not going to be playing, but they have other guys. You look at Luke Moore and what Gilberto's doing now, they're in form. Michael Bradley in the middle is a top player in the League. We know it's a good team."
The Crew also has the added motivation of playing on a night in honor of Urso that should be special for all involved.
"To honor Kirk in a game, it's going to be huge for us," said Schoenfeld. "He was a great teammate and a great friend – one of the best guys I've ever met. I know a lot of the guys who were here want to play for him in that game."