Crew SC will go on the road for the sixth time this season for a chance to earn three points against Toronto FC at BMO field on Saturday. The first of three meetings between the two rivals in the annual Trillium Cup series kicks off at 5 p.m. ET.
The Heineken Rivalry Week clash marks the fourth consecutive match at BMO Field for Toronto FC. The Reds entered that home stretch after playing their first eight matches of the season on the road. So far, they have earned mixed results at their recently renovated stadium with a win, draw and loss each.
Crew SC looks to hand Toronto its second loss at home, but the Black & Gold will be faced with the challenge of slowing down a TFC team led by Sebastian Giovinco. The 2015 MLS MVP and Golden Boot winner picked up right where he left off and is currently tied for most goals with eight. With five additional assists, Giovinco has played a part in all but one of Toronto’s 14 goals this season.
“He’s a great player. He can shoot both feet and he’s a great finisher,” midfielder Mohammed Saeid says. “It’s going to be difficult. It takes the whole team to defend a guy like that.”
A player like Giovinco can’t be taken out of the game completely, but the Black & Gold will aim to use their high press to try to limit his opportunities to score.
“He’s going to have opportunities,” Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter says. “We’ve seen that when we’ve played against them. His quality is very high and if we limit him to a few good chances I’ll be happy.”
Midfielder Justin Meram says that taking advantage of their speed on the wings will be important for the Black & Gold against TFC.
“Movement is going to be key, behind the lines, stretch them a little bit,” he says. “And make sure we move the ball side to side quickly, so we can take the guys on the wings one-v-one.”
Toronto will be without one of its dominant players, Jozy Altidore, who is out with a hamstring injury for six to eight weeks. The Black & Gold, however, expect Toronto to compensate for his absence.
“They’re going to fill him in with another good player,” Meram says. “We just have to do our homework and see what formation and lineup they’re going to go with.”
Another key for success against Toronto will be limiting veteran midfielder Michael Bradley.
“Michael goes about things in a kind of cerebral way,” midfielder Ethan Finlay says about his USMNT teammate. “He’s definitely a guy you want to be able to emulate when you talk about his effort and work ethic, so I think what we can do is kind of use that against him and their midfielders, as they are very aggressive.”
Ultimately, for the Black & Gold it is about using that aggressiveness against a talented Toronto team and coming back to Columbus with three points
“They’re a club that wants to be setting the tone in the East and they’ve shown that with their stadium and spending on players,” Berhalter says. “We’re a club that wants to be known for our playing style, and we want to be successful, and we want to represent our town, our city of Columbus. I think it becomes an interesting matchup.”