Toronto Visits 'Technical' Columbus

Asif Hossain -
A Technical Opponent

Toronto FC visits Central Ohio on Wednesday night for an Eastern Conference tilt against Columbus Crew (GOLTV Canada at 7:30 p.m. ET).

This is the second of three matches between the clubs this season. Columbus beat the Reds 1-0 at BMO Field back on March 31. Toronto head coach Paul Mariner believes Columbus is stronger than they were in the spring. "I think they've become a much more technical team," Mariner said following training Tuesday. "I think that (Federico) Higuain is a very, very talented player."

Columbus head coach Robert Warzycha may start his new designated player, Higuain, against Toronto and there is something about the Argentine that worries Mariner, "he is very good on set-pieces, so we're going to have to be careful with him."

Defending set-pieces has been a problem for Toronto. Even with the best of intentions on Saturday against first in the East, Kansas City, Toronto lost 1-0 when the ball deflected off a body in the wall following a free kick, finding its way behind goalkeeper Milos Kocic. Mariner added "I thought we deserved something against a very good Kansas City team and hopefully we can get something out of it (in Columbus)."

Another Columbus First?

Getting something from this fixture had traditionally been a sore subject for Toronto. That ended last September when the Reds marched into Crew Stadium and took home the Trillium Cup with a 4-2 win. It was the first and only time Toronto had beaten Columbus. Now, a new face in the TFC squad wants to make another memorable night in Columbus, hopefully notching his first three points as a Toronto player.

"I expect to win," a determined Darren O'Dea said when asked about his approach to the contest. "We'll go there and hopefully win because I think the club is overdue now." Like Higuain for Columbus, O'Dea made his MLS debut over the weekend. While the Argentine helped the Crew to a 2-2 draw with Houston, Toronto's Ireland international felt his club received a harsh judgment in the loss to Kansas City. O'Dea is eager to see the Reds come out on top. "The talent is there ... it's just cutting out a couple of silly little things that will make a big difference."

Return Engagement

One player who remembers the victory over Columbus last September quite well is Ryan Johnson. The Jamaica international moved to a wide role from the forward position over the weekend and could remain there for another match should Mariner wish to pursue the Eric Hassli-Luis Silva partnership on attack.

"We won there last year," Johnson recalled and feels Toronto is taking a strong squad to this fixture following Saturday's disappointment after matching one of the league's top teams for much of the contest. Johnson expects a similar setup on Wednesday. "Maybe a couple of changes to the lineup but nothing major, so I think we'll be fine." In the win against Columbus, Johnson scored the second of Toronto's four goals.

Getting An Early Start

Toronto was off to a slow start in the previous two games before turning up the tempo in the second half. In particular against Kansas City, defender Richard Eckersley admits it wasn't the easiest game to watch. He is looking for the Reds to get into the match quickly on Wednesday. "Every team has their key players and Columbus is no different," Eckersley said of the threat posed by Higuain, Jairo Arrieta and others. "I think it's important we put our stamp early on and build from there."

Eckersley remained at centre back to partner O'Dea against Kansas City. Mariner may stick to that partnership or return the Englishman back on the right side, giving one of Logan Emory, Adrian Cann or Dicoy Williams the chance to win a regular spot in the middle alongside the new backline leader. Eckersley is more concerned with leaving Columbus having something other than his position to talk about, "hopefully we'll get the result and turn things around a little bit."

The Opposition

Trillium Cup

Every Toronto-Columbus MLS regular season match counts toward the Trillium Cup for best head-to-head record between the two sides. Toronto took the trophy for the first time in 2011. This season Columbus holds a 1-0 edge from the first leg with two games remaining, both in Columbus.