Preview: Crew vs. Toronto FC
Unhappy with two points from its last two matches, the Crew refocused its attention at Tuesday's training session in Obetz on two pivotal Eastern Conference matchups at Crew Stadium this week against Toronto FC and the New England Revolution. Despite the back-to-back draws against LA and Houston, the team feels there is a lot to build upon starting Wednesday night against TFC.
"I think we've, for sure, done good things the last two games," Crew captain Chad Marshall said after training. "It's just a matter of hanging onto the lead and valuing the ball. We've got two huge home games this week and we need to get as many points as possible."
"It's kind of disappointing that we had had the lead in both of the games and given it up, but both of those games with the Galaxy at home and Houston on the road are very tough games," midfielder Chris Birchall added. "To come out unbeaten, it's more for confidence and morale than for points on the table. We've still got games in hand, but we need to win these two matches."
Birchall continued, "These are two must-wins. A draw isn't good enough in these two to get back in the playoff run. We're confident, we're playing well. We feel like with the acquisitions and additions of [Federico] Higuaín and [Jairo] Arrieta playing together, hopefully we can get a lot more goals."
Higuaín, the Black & Gold's new Designated Player, made his Crew debut Sunday night in Houston as a halftime substitute. The Argentine made an instant impact in the attack, eventually assisting on Columbus' second goal with a 25 yard lob to a streaking Eddie Gaven for the tally.
"[Higuaín] has only been here a short period of time, but he's been doing great in training," Birchall said of his new teammate. "You can tell his touches and his vision for passes is first class. When he came on in the second half [in Houston], he made things happen."
"I think he's fitting in well," head coach Robert Warzycha complimented Higuaín. "It took him just a couple of minutes to adjust, but he has experience and that's what he brings to this team."
Higuaín could make his first start and Crew Stadium debut Wednesday against Canadian rivals Toronto FC. The Crew beat TFC 1-0 at BMO Field in Toronto back on March 31, but the Reds will look much different this time around.
Former England International Paul Mariner replaced Aron Winter as head coach on June 7. In addition, TFC parted ways with Designated Player Julian de Guzman, trading the midfielder to FC Dallas in exchange for 22-year-old forward Andrew Wiedeman in mid-July. Following striker Danny Koevermans' season-ending knee injury, Toronto traded a first round pick in the 2014 MLS Superdraft for Designated Player Eric Hassli from Vancouver to replace the Dutch forward. Most recently, TFC acquired Irish center back Darren O'Dea, who was a part of Ireland's Euro 2012 roster.
"[I'm expecting] a real English mentality," Birchall said. "I know [Mariner] from England and I know he likes to get his system in place straight away. It's no surprise really they've improved since he's taken over."
The midfielder added, "They're not a team we should fear of them coming into our home ground and getting three points. We really need to go out and attack. We've got the players to win the game."
The Crew could clinch the 2012 Trillium Cup with a win after Toronto FC hoisted the trophy for the first time last season. Keeping TFC's two scoring threats in Eric Hassli and Ryan Johnson off the scoresheet will be the task at hand for Marshall and the Crew back line.
"It's going to be a battle with the Trillium Cup on the line," Marshall added. "[Toronto] has some new faces since we played them last time. Hassli is a big guy up top, so he's going to be something to deal with. Ryan Johnson works hard for all 90 minutes and he's super athletic. It's going to be tough for the back line, but we've got to get three points."
The match kicks off from Crew Stadium at 7:30PM Eastern, and can be found on FOX Sports Ohio.