TFC 'psyched' for Columbus

RYAN WOLSTAT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:16 PM ET

Year One of Toronto FC's large-scale rebuild promises to be blotted with dark moments like last week's 3-0 home stinker against D.C. United, but the team says the lack of effort that did them in will not happen again.

Nonchalant TFC found itself down 2-0 before many had settled into their seats and slow starts and suspect enthusiasm have been major issues so far.

Toronto is the third-youngest team in Major League Soccer (only the expansion Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps are more youthful) but elder statesman Julian de Guzman made it clear on Friday there is no room for excuses.

"It's a big deal for us to get a result at home," de Guzman said, adding the team had been aiming for seven points out of its current three-game string at home (TFC tied the first match of the run).

"We lost three points in a very shameful way last week (and) have to find answers," said the Canadian international matter-of-factly.

Head coach Aron Winter said the intensity level at training this week has picked up substantially and he expects that to carry over into actual games.

"We have responded well and (Saturday) I expect a lot of them," Winter said, adding his team is "reacting well, playing more passionately than they have (in recent matches)."

Winter called Saturday's let-down "an off-day."

Beating stingy Columbus will not be easy, but Toronto will be buoyed by the return to action of leading scorer Alan Gordon following a two-game absence. Top defender Adrian Cann -- hurt on one of Washington's goals last week -- is also fit, but fellow defenders Nana Attakora (groin) and Ty Harden (suspension) are out, along with flashy forward Alen Stevanovic.

Winter said he will be careful with banged up players like Stevanovic with such a meaty part of the schedule coming up.

The coach also said the debut of defender Richard Eckersley was a possibility.

With Attakora and Harden out, it's more likely a near certainty.

Winter said unlike his predecessor, Preki, he would not be loading up his lineup for league matches and resting key performers in other games.

"No difference for me if you're playing in the league or in the Canadian (championship) or CONCACAF. Every game is very important, all the same preparation," he said.

De Guzman was in a chatty mood on Friday and said he feels much better and stronger than he has at any other point since coming off of knee surgery.

The midfielder said the squad's Achilles heel -- horrid starts -- must be eliminated.

"The first 10-15 minutes of every game we've played has been slow starts. Delayed reactions," he said.

"Now it's about psyching ourselves up before we step on the field. As long as we come to this game mentally prepared, I think physically we're in shape, it's just the mental side of it."

De Guzman said the Reds know the team has never beaten Columbus, which should help lead to a better start.

"A lot of the guys have a good idea of this derby tomorrow. It's a chance to come in with a lot more fire than before, something we could use."

Goal-scoring has been another issue for the Reds. Dwayne De Rosario is gone and nobody has been brought in to make up for the many goals he was responsible for.

De Guzman said his absence is lamentable, but it is the nature of the beast and something the Reds will have to deal with.

"It's unfortunate to have an impact player like that kind of just disappear but on the other side of things, it's part of the game. It's something that you have no control over as a player," he said.

"On the field it's business and off the field it can remain a friendship."

There are no friends where Columbus and Toronto are concerned. Expect that to be proven once again on Saturday.


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