CLB (home) Three Keys 2018

Three Keys to the Match: Toronto FC vs. Columbus Crew SC

An Eastern Conference Championship rematch awaits as the 2018 MLS season kicks off in Toronto. Here are the Benjamin Moore three keys to the match as the Reds take on Columbus Crew SC.

No Hangover

We all know about the historic 2017 season, and what a season it was. The most points in MLS regular season history, the first domestic treble in league history (Voyageurs Cup, Supporters’ Shield, MLS Cup).

But that was last year.

The MLS Cup title defense starts in earnest on Saturday afternoon, and the Reds will have to leave their 2017 season in the past if they want to repeat their incredible run. No team has won back-to-back titles since the LA Galaxy and 2011-2012, and if TFC wants to be in that company, they’ll need the same focus day in and day out that drove them forward last season. With head coach Greg Vanney and captain Michael Bradley at the helm, 2018 should be no different.

New-look Crew

Columbus has undergone a bit of a shakeup when it comes to personnel in the offseason, but will it be more of the same in 2018? Defender Nick Hagglund thinks so.

“They’ve added a couple of new pieces, but I think their ideals as a team will be similar,” he said following Thursday’s training session.

Gone from the Crew lineup are 2017’s top two goal scorers, Ola Kamara (18 g) and Justin Meram (13 g). Looking to fill the attacking void will be former LA Galaxy striker Gyasi Zardes. The United States international had a rough 2017, scoring just two goals in 23 starts. However, the versatile attacker looked sharp throughout preseason. Columbus will be hoping the 26-year-old can reclaim the 2014 form that pegged him as one of the country’s most promising attacking talents.

Defense First

TFC were rock solid at the back in 2017, conceding a conference-low 37 goals over the 34-game regular season. And the Reds look to have picked up right where they left off.

Dating back to the Eastern Conference Championship series against this same Crew side, Toronto has recorded five consecutive clean sheets, most recently shutting out the Colorado Rapids in both legs of the CONCACAF Champions League Round of 16. Whether in a back four or back five, TFC will need to stay organized to deal with a dangerous Columbus team on Saturday.