Toronto In Sunday Season Finale

Asif Hossain -
One More Look

On Sunday afternoon, Toronto FC will finish its 2012 campaign in Ohio against Columbus Crew (on TSN at 4 p.m. ET). The match will bring one more look from head coach Paul Mariner at his current crop of players, before an off season that could see changes that may result in new faces to complement injured and missing stars Torsten Frings, Danny Koevermans, Eric Hassli and Darren O'Dea.

The core of the club in 2013 will likely comprise of those key figures, acting captain Terry Dunfield and a few others. The Columbus match will provide one last audition for many. "We have lots to play for. We need to play for our pride," Mariner said on Friday. He acknowledged that several inexperienced players had to punch above their weight this season with horrendous injuries to regulars. Nonetheless, Mariner wants to end an MLS winless streak that dates back to July. The two victories since that time have come in the Champions League. Toronto last beat an MLS opponent on July 18, winning 2-1 over Colorado.

"If you're going to be a professional footballer and you're not hurting in the situation that we're in, you're kidding yourself," Mariner continued. "I'm hoping (the players) are thinking the same way as me, that they want to go out with a 'W' in Columbus."

Dialed In

Getting a win in Columbus will require a big effort from another player who has probably cemented his address to BMO Field for 2013. Rookie midfielder Luis Silva scored Toronto's goal in the 2-1 loss in Columbus on August 22, the last meeting between the sides. Previous to that, the Crew won 1-0 in Toronto on March 31, as part of the nine-game losing streak with which the Reds started the 2012 MLS season. The Trillium Cup - awarded for best head-to-head MLS record - already decided in Columbus' favour, Reds will look to avoid the sweep on Sunday.

"We gotta go in with everything," Silva took the time to tell Toronto FC TV during the squad's visit to The Hospital for Sick Children on Friday. "We still have one game, 90 minutes to play. I think everybody is dialed in and focused to try to get that win." Silva started at midfield in the Reds' 1-0 midweek CCL loss in Mexico to Santos Laguna, where Toronto looked capable in the buildup but were unable to finish their chances. That loss knocked Toronto out of the 2012/13 edition of the tournament, in the same calendar year that the club became the first Canadian team to reach the semifinals of the continental tournament.

Carrying On

Additional attacking flair arrived from midfield on Wednesday courtesy of Eric Avila.

"We want to go all out and finish strong," Avila said this week looking ahead to Sunday, "I'm trying to help my team as much as possible." But for a timely block inside Santos' box, Avila might have opened the scoring in Mexico in a match where the Reds competed against a strong, reputable squad that beat Toronto to make the 2011/12 CCL final. Far removed from the moderate success achieved earlier this year, Avila was candid that 2012 fell well below expectations. "I've never had a season like this," he admitted. "I've learned a lot from what we've experienced. It's really difficult but in a way it's something I've learned (from) and I'll carry on."

Bright Lights

In a year of few positives, there were a couple of bright lights in homegrown defenders Ashtone Morgan and Doneil Henry showing they belong in MLS. Both signed long term contracts in 2012 to join the club's core group into next year and beyond. Mariner is protective of the younger Henry, 19, at the centre back position. The coach notes that in MLS most nights require physical maturity and experience in that role. Morgan, 21, has established himself as a first choice left back, one that Mariner believes will be the talk of the league for years to come.

The pair have made the trip to Columbus. Henry continues to work through a slight knee injury that has limited his involvement. Morgan - likely to start Saturday - is eager to contribute. This week he told reporters "I solidified myself as the left back here and hopefully I can keep my job for next season." He would cherish ending the year setting up a winning goal (Morgan is Toronto's co-leader in assists with five), the defender however, couldn't help but feel sorrow for the months that passed. "It's our fault, definitely. We want to apologize to the fans for the season that we had. Hopefully they can stand with us for the next season."

The Opposition