This will be last roundup together for many of the Toronto FC players, because a season like this one simply calls for changes.
Against this background, the Reds will try for only their sixth league win of the season against the Crew on Sunday (4 pm ET, watch LIVE online).
“Of course, it’s on everyone’s mind,” midfielder Eric Avila told reporters after training on Friday. “Who stays, who stays. Things have to change, obviously.”
Toronto (5-20-8) have lost both games with Columbus (14-12-7) home and away this season and are 1-5-7 against the Crew since entering the league in 2007.
The Reds are trying to avoid finishing at five wins, which would be a club low for a season. They won six in 2007 and in 2011.
“I’ve never had a season like this,” Avila said. “It’s always up and down. I’ve learned a lot from what we’ve experienced. |It’s really difficult.”
Toronto opened the season with a league record nine consecutive losses before winning on May 26. Paul Mariner replaced Aron Winter as head coach on June 7 and the team had a 4-1-4 run before injuries began to take a toll including the loss for the season of Designated Players Danny Koevermans (knee) and Torsten Frings (hip).
“We’ve asked too much of the young players,” Mariner said. “We’re learning on the job and then when we started to get hit by so many key injuries to key players, it’s very, very hard for them to continue.”
A third DP was acquired in Eric Hassli but he has been in and out of the lineup with injuries and is questionable for Columbus with a recurring back injury.
“When you lose all your heavy hitters, it’s tough,” Mariner said.
Mariner did not indicate who might not return but singled out defender Richard Eckersley, midfielder Terry Dunfield and forward Ryan Johnson as stalwarts all year in a difficult season.
The Reds have not won in the league since July 18 and are 0-9-4 since.
“There were a lot of chapters in our season,” defender Ashtone Morgan said. “As players we have to cope with scenarios that are thrown at us. Unfortunately I guess it wasn’t so positive for us this season with all the stuff that has happened. We try to deal with it as best we can. We have another season to go back at it.”
Defender Logan Emory (shoulder) was cleared to make the trip to Columbus but defender Darren O’Dea is again out with a thigh injury.