TORONTO – With the first leg of the Amway Canadian Championship now behind them, Toronto FC are switching all of their focus back to league play as they host the Columbus Crew at BMO Field on Saturday (5 pm ET, TSN in Canada, MLS Live in US).
TFC head coach Ryan Nelsen isn’t taking the encounter lightly, having rested Jermain Defoe for a match he called a “cup final,” referring to the Trillium Cup that is contested each year between the two rival sides.
“[Columbus] play a certain style away, a certain style where if you’re not right on top of your game, they can punish you,” Nelsen told reporters at training on Friday. “In saying that, that potentially exposes some weaknesses of theirs and hopefully we can get on top of them.”
Earlier in the year, Federico Higuain and the rest of Gregg Berhalter’s players hosted Toronto FC at Crew Stadium, but a Michael Bradley goal early in the match and a second from the now-departed Issey Nakajima-Farran late on gave Toronto a 2-0 win. Now, the two teams square off once more to decide the winner of the Trillium Cup. The Crew will be without Higuain, though, as he was suspended after picking up his fifth yellow card of the year.
“They’re a very dangerous side, a nice balanced side, to tell you the truth,” Nelsen said. “Obviously Higuain’s a big miss for them; he’s one of the most influential players in the league. But in saying that, it gives an opportunity to somebody who will be extremely hungry to prove his worth.”
Toronto FC will be without an important player of their own, though – captain Steven Caldwell is suspended for this encounter after picking up a straight red card against Sporting Kansas City last week. Caldwell was also suspended in the last meeting between Toronto and Columbus, and Nelsen said he hopes his side can repeat a victory without the commanding central defender in the backline.
His side will also be boosted by the return of Jonathan Osorio, Jackson and Luke Moore, who returned to training on Friday. Osorio (hamstring), Jackson (concussion) and Moore (groin) were all scratches in the midweek match against the Montreal Impact, but could find some minutes on Saturday. Nelsen said the trio were ready to go but not yet fully fit, having just returned, but said they would be available for selection.
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Another player absent from the line up is Collen Warner, but not through injury or suspension.
“No, unfortunately, Collen’s brother is getting married in Denver and he’s the best man at the wedding,” Nelsen joked. “On several levels, us married men have told him to tell his brother he’s making a bad mistake!”
“I was a wee bit surprised,” Nelsen said. “I didn’t think I said anything that bad or controversial. It was probably a week for everybody to forget when it came to some of those decisions. I think a lot of coaches probably would get upset, but that’s life. We move on.”