While Toronto tries to stop its troubling trend of surrendering late goals, Columbus looks to continue its stranglehold on this series with a fourth straight victory.
Toronto (1-5-4) enters having lost three straight matches while Columbus (3-4-3) has dropped three of four, getting shut out in each defeat.
The Crew lost 2-0 to visiting Colorado last Saturday despite recording a season-high 22 shots to the Rapids’ two. They also had a 15-7 advantage on shots a week earlier against New York, but fell 1-0.
“I think we created chances but we need to score goals, simple as that,” coach Robert Warzycha told the team’s official website. “I think we played good enough to win the games. You score the goals you get the points; (if) you don’t, then obviously it’s very difficult.”
While Columbus’ defense has generally been solid, it will be without a key component Saturday in center back Chad Marshall, who suffered a strained hamstring in the loss to the Rapids. To replace Marshall - who has played every minute this season - Warzycha likely will turn to Eric Gehrig, who is the captain of the Crew’s reserve team but hasn’t played in the MLS this season despite owning 20 games of experience.
“Injuries happen,” said Warzycha, who said it may be “a while” before Marshall returns. “They are part of the sport. It’s part of the game, so you have to be prepared for anything to happen.”
Toronto is mired in an eight-match winless streak since beating Sporting Kansas City on March 9. That’s the club’s only win since July 28, a 1-15-8 stretch.
Saturday’s matchup doesn’t seem likely to help Toronto end its slump. It’s only beaten the Crew once in 16 meetings, a 4-2 road win in September 2011. Columbus has won eight times, including all three matches last season to claim its fourth Trillium Cup in the trophy’s five-year history.
Toronto yielded a goal in the 81st minute in a 2-1 loss at San Jose on May 8. Seven of the club’s 15 goals allowed have come in the 76th minute or later, including three in stoppage time.
“We are just too soft and we have to be hard,” coach Ryan Nelsen told the team’s website. “We have to change that and we will change that. We’re bringing in players who will know how to defend and who will have the confidence to get on the ball when the pressure is on.”
Toronto followed through on Nelsen’s proclamation, signing Israeli defender Tal Ben Haim on loan from Queens Park Rangers a day after the loss. They also acquired midfielder Bobby Convey from Sporting KC on Thursday in exchange for a third-round pick in the 2014 SuperDraft.
The 29-year-old midfielder has played in 189 MLS matches over 10 seasons while registering 14 goals and 33 assists. He’s also appeared in 46 games for the U.S. National team.
“It will only benefit the young guys, watching him play and seeing how he goes about things,” Nelsen said. “Also it just adds to the quality of the squad - Bobby’s an outstanding MLS player. So it’s a great coup for the club.”
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