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MLS Preview: Columbus Crew - Toronto FC

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Columbus Crew 0-2 Toronto FC: Bradley hits winner
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Columbus Crew 0-2 Toronto FC: Bradley hits winner

This match can almost be labelled as Columbus Crew versus Toronto FC Reserves, given the number of expected absences for Ryan Nelsen's squad on Saturday evening.

Jermain Defoe (hamstring), Steven Caldwell (suspension), Doneil Henry (knee), and Ashtone Morgan (hip) will all be out from TFC's trip to Ohio, and midfielder Jonathan Osorio (hamstring) is a serious doubt after missing last week's 3-0 loss at Real Salt Lake. This is in addition, of course, to striker Bright Dike's long-term recovery from Achilles surgery, which is expected to keep the Nigerian international out until late summer at the earliest.

It all adds up to a huge headache for Nelsen, who will try to put together a competitive roster while missing his star striker, his starting central defensive tandem, and, in Osorio, Michael Bradley's partner in central midfield.

Adding to the bad news is that all of these absences for Toronto will come on the road to the league's hottest team in Columbus. The Crew have compiled a 3-0 record to start the season, one of only two teams in MLS that can boast a better points-per-game record than TFC.

Led by the brilliance of Federico Higuain, Columbus opened the season with a 3-0 throttling of D.C. United at RFK Stadium before grabbing one-goal wins over Philadelphia and Seattle. Now the Crew head home to take on Trillium Cup rival TFC, and the hosts won't be bothered by the fact that Toronto will be severly undermanned in this one.

Columbus leads the league in team possession, and it will look to maintain that dominance of the ball at home on Saturday. TFC, on the other hand, has willfully given up the lion's share of possession in favor of a counterattacking style in its first three matches, but without all of its weapons it could be a long night for the Reds.

The match kicks off at 6:00 pm E.T. at Crew Stadium. 

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