Gritty CCL draw a momentum builder for Toronto FC

Toronto FC goalkeeper Milos Kocic

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TORONTO – Toronto FC suddenly have a bit of momentum, and they’re not eager to let it slip again.

The Reds head into their Trillium Cup rivalry match against Columbus on Saturday (2 pm ET, TSN in Canada/MLS LIVE in US) on the heels of their gritty 1-1 draw against Santos Laguna in the CONCACAF Champions League, and they’re hopeful a first league win of 2012 is in the cards this weekend.

And as for that postgame melee with Santos? Call it a team-building exercise.

“That’s what brings the team together, situations like that,” TFC goalkeeper Milos Kocic told reporters on Friday. “That’s why you have fights in hockey, right? To kind of bring up the energy of the game?”

TFC have played well in CCL but have struggled to translate that success to the MLS schedule, evidenced by their league losses to Seattle and San Jose to open the season.

“I think the way we played against San Jose kind of woke everybody up,” Kocic said. “We were like, ‘This can’t happen again,’ and we responded very well [against Santos]. We were unlucky not to score more goals. I think tomorrow we’re going to be up for the game. We have to be up for the game.”

For the Reds, it’s a matter of asserting themselves on their home pitch, the way they did Wednesday.

“You don’t want your opponent to come onto your field and act like they own the field like San Jose did and they beat us,” Kocic said. “Against Santos, we didn’t let that happen. We fought for it and that’s the response we need in every game.”

Midfielder Julian de Guzman – who perhaps played his finest game in red against Santos – will once again serve as captain for the team with injured defender Torsten Frings out of the lineup.

“This is a very crucial game for us,” de Guzman said. “These are the type of games that could change seasons for teams and this is where it starts for us, where we have to show our game face and get some points at home.”

The Reds will wait and see, meanwhile, on the health of this week’s CCL hero, Miguel Aceval. He’s a game-time decision with the hamstring injury that forced him out of the Santos match after he leveled the game before halftime.

Defender Adrian Cann is also a possibility to see action on Saturday as he continues his return from knee surgery. Head coach Aron Winter said he will be on the gameday roster, but it’s not certain if he’ll see any time.