Although Gregg Berhalter’s first installment of the Trillium Cup, presented by Scotts, was less than two months ago, there’s a good chance that this weekend’s rematch could look drastically different. That’s because each team is missing its midfield general: Michael Bradley for Toronto (international duty) and Federico Higuain for Columbus (yellow-card accumulation).
Given the fact that Jermain Defoe is also expected to start on Saturday after missing the clubs’ first encounter due to injury, how does the Crew Sporting Director and Head Coach expect the match to differ stylistically?
“It’s hard to tell,” said the Crew boss. “Toronto had a fantastic result last week against [Sporting] Kansas City: down a man, they stayed organized, they didn’t give up many chances, and they scored two goals … They have forwards who are good. All three of them are dangerous: Gilberto, Defoe and [Luke] Moore. It’s going to be a good game.”
While Berhalter has plenty of options to replace Higuain on Saturday, Bradley Orr has converted from centerback to midfielder as Michael Bradley’s replacement for Toronto FC, which also boasts impressive attacking options up front. Ryan Nelsen opted to sit Jermain Defoe in the Reds’ midweek Canadian Championship match -- presumably to rest up for this match against Columbus -- but Berhalter cautions that all of Toronto FC’s attackers are dangerous.
“They have a pretty deep squad. They still played one of their DPs up top [Gilberto], and it’s still a good group that they have. They played a DP and [Dwayne] De Rosario, right? So they’re not too shabby,” laughed Berhalter.
For all of the recognizable names in the Reds’ attack, Toronto FC has been a strong defensive side, conceding just 11 goals on the season, second-fewest in MLS. Although that rank is affected slightly by the Reds having played a League-low nine matches in 2014, Berhalter made sure to stress that his team is aware of the quality that Toronto FC brings on defense as well.
“It’s a very good defensive team. They’ve built a very strong defensive unit over the course of this year. We know it’s going to be tough. They’re physical, they move well together, they have good organization in their defending, so it’s tough."
Continued Berhalter: “We’re focused on our movements around the box. You have to make it happen. They were down a man against Kansas City and didn’t let up many chances. For us, it’s going to be executing our movements.”
Toronto FC will not have Steven Caldwell available as he serves a red-card suspension, and there is a bit of additional good news for the Crew in that regard. At four total cautions each, Wil Trapp and Tony Tchani are each one caution away from an accumulation suspension, but should each play and make it through this match unbooked, they will have that number reduced to three cautions apiece due to the League’s good behavior incentive.