The Columbus Crew aren’t taking anything for granted even though they appear to be in the perfect place to end a five-game winless run on the road.
Toronto FC has not scored in a season-high 336 minutes, hasn’t won a league match at BMO Field in over a year and has never beaten Columbus at home heading into Saturday’s meeting.
Columbus (6-9-5) has dominated this series, winning four straight to improve to 9-1-7 all-time with a 3-0-5 mark in Toronto. The Crew are 0-4-1 on the road since a 1-0 victory at BMO Field on May 18, and insist that their past success north of the border won’t matter this weekend.
“It’s (still) not an easy place to play,” defender Chad Marshall told the Crew’s official website. “They have good fans and a hostile atmosphere. We come together as a team there and get the results, and hopefully that’s the case this weekend.”
Toronto FC (2-10-8) is 0-7-9 in MLS play at BMO Field since a 2-1 victory over Colorado on July 18, 2012. The club is 0-3-6 at home since a 2-1 win over Sporting Kansas City on March 9 in a match played at the Rogers Centre.
TFC has been shut out in three straight and five of its last six matches after last Saturday’s home draw with New York. The goalless drought is the sixth-longest in the league this year.
“We’re not going to push any panic buttons over one or two weeks,” first-year coach Ryan Nelsen told Toronto’s official website. “Unfortunately, guys who can put the ball in the net don’t grow on trees.”
Nelsen did not have injured top strikers Danny Koevermans and Robert Earnshaw last weekend, and it’s not clear if either will be back this Saturday. Earnshaw has a team-high six goals, with just one in his last 11 games.
Toronto owns the league’s second-worst offense with 17 goals.
“I’ll take all the criticism, I’ll take everything but I’ve got to look at the bigger picture,” Nelsen said. “I’ve got to look at not just for the short term but next season and here on. I want to put a foundation in place at Toronto for not just the next three months, but for the next three years.”
Goals shouldn’t be as big a problem for Columbus because forward Dominic Oduro is sixth in the league with eight. Oduro scored in the first meeting, and has goals in three of his last five games versus TFC.
The Crew will also be boosted by the return of striker Jairo Arrieta, who has missed the last three matches while with the Costa Rica national team. Columbus scored three times in its last two games with him, but has two goals in a 1-2-0 stretch without him capped by last Saturday’s 2-0 defeat to New England.
“I don’t feel any pressure,” Arrieta said. “The moment that a striker feels the pressure, it’s like the goal closes for the striker. I just feel confident in what I have. I feel focused on getting the best results for the team.”
Columbus is in eighth place in the Eastern Conference with 23 points - six fewer than Houston for the fifth and final playoff spot.
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