Miranda: Crew have to show more heart, focus vs. TFC

OBETZ, Ohio — Columbus Crew defender Sebastián Miranda takes pride in preventing goals while letting the more offensive-minded players to take care of business at the other end of the field.

So imagine how he felt when one of the best defenses was shredded for six by the Seattle Sounders on Aug. 27.

“We have to learn from this game because we made many bad plays in a few minutes,” the Chilean said. “Our characteristic is definitely our heart. That game was not of heart.”

The Crew’s gaudy 0.96 goals-against average was third-best in MLS before the Seattle match. After the 6-2 loss, it is now 1.15, tied for sixth with Philadelphia.

“If we are not smart and confident about ourselves, this is the score that can happen,” Miranda said. “We have to play with 100 percent concentration the whole game.”

He expects the Crew (11-8-7, 40 points) to show why they lead the Eastern Conference when they host Toronto FC (4-12-12, 24) on Saturday. (7:30 pm ET, watch LIVE  online)

“We have to turn the page to the next game and show the real Crew because the last game was not the real Crew,” Miranda said. “It was our worst game.”

Remarkably so, considering they allowed two goals to Seattle in the first 16 minutes and three by the 20-minute mark after not conceding more than two scores in any of the previous 14 games, including five shutouts.

One reason for the meltdown was not having suspended center back Julius James, but the defense will be bolstered by his return against Toronto FC. Although his last league appearance was Aug. 20, he kept sharp playing twice for Trinidad and Tobago in the past week.

Midfielders Robbie Rogers (US) and Emmanuel Ekpo (Nigeria) were also on national team duty but are expected to start as well.

Saturday’s match will mark the first time the Crew will face former players Andy Iro and Leandre Griffit, whom they sent to Toronto for midfielder Tony Tchani on July 15.

Iro has started seven times for the Reds while Griffit and Tchani have yet to debut for their new clubs. Tchani underwent knee surgery two weeks ago and his return this season is in question.

The 6-foot-5 Iro partnered with Chad Marshall (6-foot-4) for much of his three-and-a-half–year Columbus career to form a towering presence in the middle, and the pair should have several aerial duels Saturday.

“It’s going to be a battle,” Marshall said. “He’s obviously dangerous on set pieces. He’s a big body. He’s scored a lot of goals for us. He’ll be looking to do the same for them. I’m sure he’ll be highly motivated to come back and play against his old team.

“He’s a good player, a good friend. I wish him nothing but the best for Toronto, just not this weekend.”

The Crew are 5-0-7 all-time against Toronto FC, including a 1-1 tie in Canada on April 23 in which Tchani scored his second career goal, both against Columbus.