COLUMBUS, Ohio – In each of their first three MLS matches of 2014, the Columbus Crew have faced a player who received a call-up to this week's US national team camp in Phoenix for Wednesday night's friendly against Mexico. That trend continues this weekend, when the Crew host rivals Toronto FC and their midfield general, Michael Bradley (6 pm ET, MLS LIVE).
Crew head coach Gregg Berhalter knows Bradley will be a formidable test, and after calling last week's matchup with Seattle a “measuring-stick game,” he said the central-midfueld duel will be the same kind of challenge for Tony Tchani and Wil Trapp.
“[Bradley] is the best midfielder in the league,” Berhalter said after Crew training Thursday, “We know going up against him, we're going to have to be concentrated, we're going to have to be aware, we're going to have to put him in uncomfortable positions. It's certainly a measuring stick for Wil and Tony, and I'm excited to see how they're going to do.”
Trapp said pressuring Bradley andn limiting his effectiveness will be the key to winning that midfield battle -- and the game.
“Obviously, he makes them tick; he's kind of their engine,” he said. “We just have to try and get numbers around the ball when he has it, just get him to run around a little bit. Hopefully we can exploit that.”
After watching Bradley's superb performance against Mexico Wednesday, Berhalter knows to expect another complete performance from the Toronto captain.
“Michael's work rate is phenomenal,” Berhalter said. “You saw yesterday, he had a goal and an assist. He's all over the place. [The key] is going to be limiting the damage he can do.”
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Another key part of the attack for Toronto is England international and designated player Jermain Defoe, who has been ruled out for the weekend due to a hamstring injury, something Berhalter had not known until Thursday.
“Really? That's great,” he laughed. “Obviously it would help us if he's not playing, but they have other capable guys who can come in. Dwayne De Rosario has been a top forward in the league, Gilberto is a very good player, so they have a good group."