The top two goal scorers in Major League Soccer will face off this Saturday as Columbus Crew SC welcomes Toronto FC for a tough Eastern Conference matchup.
This season, visitors to MAPFRE Stadium have had the pleasure of experiencing MLS All-Star Kei Kamara’s finishing ability game in and game out. This weekend, expect excitement to double-down as the Crew SC striker goes head-to-head with Sebastian Giovinco, Toronto FC’s Designated Player, whose 12 goals on the season put him just two behind Kamara.
“Definitely, people have to respect him,” Kamara says of Giovinco. “Us, our team, we have to respect him and he’s going to come in here, he’s going to want to play well. But for us, I have trust in my defense that hopefully it can stop him, stop him from catching up to me and us creating some more [scoring chances] so I can pull away from him.”
With a win, Crew SC could also pull away from Toronto in a tight Eastern Conference playoff race. The Black & Gold currently rank second with 30 points, just three ahead of fourth-placed TFC.
Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter expects a tough matchup between two of the League’s most entertaining offenses.
“[Toronto FC] is one of those teams in the Eastern Conference that has the same aspirations that we have – they want to be top of the East,” Berhalter says. “Whenever you play those games, they’re going to be tough games. I guarantee you see a different intensity to this match on Saturday.”
The match will be a surefire test for a Black & Gold defense that has played well as of late. It will have to contain not just a quick and skillful Giovinco, but also U.S. Men’s National Team striker Jozy Altidore, who has six goals to his name this season.
“They are both top players for this League,” Berhalter says TFC’s attacking duo. “They are almost polar opposites – Jozy is power and strength and good finishing, and Giovinco is quickness and speed and great passing, and also good finishing, so it’s a tough combo to play against.”
Defender Tyson Wahl, who had a standout performance in Crew SC’s 3-1 win over the Chicago Fire, in which he completed 92.7 percent of his passes, says Toronto’s frontline will have its moments, but the Black & Gold can weather the storm.
“I think with Jozy you can’t get caught into a wrestling match with him because he’s very strong and that’s what he wants to do,” Wahl says. “And then with Giovinco, you just have to limit his influence on the game. Obviously he’s a great player and he’s scored a lot of goals and he’s going to have his moments, but I think if we limit those moments we’ll be in good shape.”
The Black & Gold have been in good shape as of late, winning four of their last six matches including two straight against Chicago. A third consecutive win would be a season first for a Columbus squad that is looking to carry its momentum into the latter stages of the season.
A Crew SC win would also mean that the Trillium Cup is coming back to Columbus. The trophy goes to the winner of the annual three-game series between Columbus and Toronto. The two sides met earlier this season in Crew SC’s home opener that ended with a 2-0 victory for the Black & Gold.
The match marked Kamara’s first since returning to Columbus and the start of his tremendous goal-scoring run. The striker says the early-season win as well as Crew SC’s recent performances are a a confidence booster ahead of Saturday’s clash.
“We’ve played Toronto before and the good thing is we are playing them again at home and we just had our last win at home, so all those things give us extra boost again,” Kamara says. “They are going to bring a good squad. It’s different from the first time we played them, but for us, we’re just building confidence going into the second half of the season.”