Beating Columbus a must for TFC

Toronto FC's goalkeeper Milos Kocic makes a huge save against Club Santos Laguna's Herculez Gomez...

Toronto FC's goalkeeper Milos Kocic makes a huge save against Club Santos Laguna's Herculez Gomez during their CONCACAF Champions League semifinal in Toronto this week. TFC battles Columbus Saturday at BMO Field. (REUTERS)

Kurtis Larson, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:07 PM ET

Toronto’s about-face isn’t as puzzling to Aron Winter as it has been to supporters.

“I’m not confused, I’m confident,” Toronto’s head coach said, when asked why TFC’s CONCACAF outings have been more positive than in league play. “The team spirit is good, the way we want to play is good and we are creating a lot of opportunities.”

Scoring chances that nearly saw the Reds exit the opening leg of a Champions League semifinal with what would have been a shocking result.

“Everyone’s still talking about the Santos game and what could have been and what should have been,” Julian de Guzman said. “It’s good that we leave that taste in our mouths and it’s something we can use going into an important game.”

The Reds enter Saturday’s clash with the Columbus Crew riding high after a spirited Champions League draw with Santos Laguna midweek — a result that sets up an intriguing return leg in Torreon, Mexico next week.

But after being outscored 6-1 through two MLS matches, the Reds realize the importance of picking up early season points, particularly at home.

“I think our confidence is up (after) the Santos Laguna game,” Milos Kocic said after Friday’s pre-match training session. “You don’t want your opponent to come into your field and act like they own (it). Against Santos, we didn’t let that happen. We fought for it and that’s the response we need in every game.”

Toronto followed up a disastrous 3-0 loss to San Jose with one of its best showings in years Wednesday, bossing one of the region’s best and closing down a Santos attack that many thought would shred a battered and broken TFC back line.

Wednesday’s performance presented a far more organized side that supporters had anticipated coming into the season. Toronto defended as a unit and was quick to close the same space it offered San Jose just days before, frustrating Santos and stymying a gifted attack throughout the match.

“I think the lads now know what they need to do to win games and to get good results and performances,” Richard Eckersley said. “Everyone needs to get their chest out and do their bit for the team. If we do that we’re going to push up the league and get points.”

The Reds could be without Miguel Aceval, who left Wednesday’s match with an apparent hamstring strain, for Columbus and Winter stressed the need to rest certain pieces ahead of next week’s trip to Torreon.

Still looking to open his account this season, Danny Koevermans should start his second-straight match after a booking on Wednesday earned him a suspension ahead of next week’s return leg.

“(Danny’s) fit and the moments are there,” Winter said of his fellow Dutchman’s goal drought. “He’s waiting for the first goal, but I’ve got all the confidence that it’s coming.”

An 0-3 start would be a disastrous beginning to the club’s post-season aspirations following three promising showings in a separate competition.

“I think we need to get points on the board now,” Eckersley said. “The team came together on Wednesday and I think we need to put that performance in tomorrow (Saturday) as well.”

In six visits, Columbus is one of two clubs the Reds have never taken full points from at BMO Field. Toronto’s Trillium Cup rivals enter the match looking to take back the trophy TFC captured at Crew Stadium at the end of last year.

“They’ve always been a team that has brought battles to BMO and we’ve also had some good battles over there,” de Guzman said. “We want to keep this recognition and the (Trillium) trophy at (our) stadium so this is a great way to look at this game and to come out battling.”

MARQUEE MATCHUP

Logan Emory v. Emilio Renteria

After watching Miguel Aceval replaced during Wednesday’s Champions League tie, the pride of Idaho could make his second appearance for his new club. Signed earlier this month from Puerto Rico, all things point to Logan Emory slotting in for TFC’s Chilean centreback in a massive MLS fixture. With Torsten Frings still labouring and Adrian Cann chasing match fitness, Emory will be assigned the task of marking one of the biggest bodies in the league. The Crew’s Emilio Renteria has been a handful for opposing defences since arriving in Ohio three years ago and has the potential to punish opposing backs in a number of ways. Whether it’s posting up as a target or facing goal, the Venezuelan will be a big test for one of Toronto’s newest additions.

TFC KEYS

STAY COMPACT

Toronto must stay with the tactics that frustrated Santos Laguna this week. The club defended as a unit and in every instance had two and three players around the ball. If Toronto moves away from the fundamentals that granted it so much success against one of the best clubs in CONCACAF, Columbus has the weapons to punish what won’t be a first-choice back four.

OPEN THE SCORING

The Reds have conceded first in each of their last four matches, unnerving their defence and making the fight back for maximum points an uphill climb. With Danny Koevermans the main culprit, TFC must take advantage of the same chances it failed to convert Wednesday night, especially with a shaky back line that has failed to register a clean sheet in 2012.

QUICK HITS

— The Crew holds a 1-0-5 advantage in Toronto and hopes to take advantage of key absences. “Obviously with (Torsten) Frings out, that’s a big deal,” Crew ‘keeper Andy Gruenebaum said. “I think we have a game plan going in to expose them.”

— Toronto and Columbus compete each season for the Trillium Cup — a three-match competition between two clubs whose home state/province share the same wildflower.

— The Reds captured their first Trillium Cup last year following a 4-2 win at Crew Stadium — Toronto’s first ever over the all yellow.

 


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