What better way to start a season than a matchup with your biggest rival?
Toronto FC’s fourth Major League Soccer season gets underway Saturday afternoon against the Crew in Columbus.
Supporters of both sides have gotten prickly with each other in the past — a TFC supporter allegedly was tasered by Columbus police last season — and Toronto players are well aware of the rivalry.
“It’s no big secret we haven’t got a win in Columbus, so we want to achieve that this year,” said forward Dwayne De Rosario. “It would be a great way to start the season.”
Fellow Torontonian Julian de Guzman, who joined the club too late last season to experience the rivalry first-hand, said he is looking forward to it.
“It’s pretty intense and exciting,” de Guzman said. “It’s a special date of the season for us to have that many fans that support us away. You don’t see that often in MLS.
“This is something to look forward to with the support behind our backs.”
The support of the faithful might be tested, even though 57% of fans on TFC’s website think the club will make the post-season.
Columbus has won back-to-back Supporters’ Shields and claimed the MLS Cup in 2008.
Meanwhile, TFC appears to be a squad that will have an extremely tough time putting the ball in the net.
It lacks a top striker and might have to play de Rosario up front since he is their biggest threat. The injured Chad Barrett lacks touch and young O’Brian White is still finding his way after working his way back from a significant injury last season.
Someone will have to score, however, as Amado Guevara, Ali Gerba and Pablo Vitti are no longer in the lineup.
Preki, Toronto’s fourth head coach, believes the club’s strength in other areas will help it withstand its offensive failings.
“As a group right now, we’re not too easy to play against,” he said. “The teams that we played against, they found it really hard to get going. We want to put some balls in the net ourselves, but it’s coming.
“If we don’t give the goals away easy, I think we’ll always be competitive and that’s a key for us.”
De Rosario is ready for the challenge.
“Last year was a bitter ending. We had a great opportunity to clinch the playoffs against New York and we disappointed ourselves,” De Rosario said. “Hopefully, we clinch a playoff berth earlier in the season (and) put ourselves in the situation where teams are trying to catch us, not the other way around.”
TFC will be without injured forward Barrett and winger Jacob Peterson for at least one week, while defender Emmanuel Gomez is out long-term. The team does not play again until April 10.