Crew looks to finish 2012 with Trillium Cup sweep

Black & Gold motivated to end season on high note against old foe

Eddie Gaven

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PLAYING FOR THE SWEEP

The Crew has topped rivals Toronto FC in the first two matches of this year's three- game Trillium Cup series to secure the trophy, but will look to close out the sweep on Sunday against the Canadian side. Since the rivalry began in 2007 following Toronto's addition to MLS, the Black & Gold have never beaten the Reds three times in one season.

"Toronto FC is our rival, it makes the game that much more important," Eddie Gaven said. "I don't know what it is, but there is a lot of passion between both teams and both fanbases. This game definitely means a lot. We all know that as players."

The rivalry began in 2007 when Columbus mayor Michael Coleman and then-Toronto mayor David Miller placed a small wager with one another in which the losing city's mayor would have to wear the winning team's jersey. As supporters of each club followed suit, the Trillium Cup rivalry began.

The Cup gets its name from trillium, the state wildflower of Ohio and the provincial flower of Ontario. The Crew is 7-1-7 all-time against the Reds, winning four of five season series. The only time the Crew has lost the Cup was in 2011, a result of the club's only defeat to the Canadian side.

The Trillium Cup will be awarded to the Black & Gold in a pregame ceremony on Sunday.

PLAYING FOR PRIDE

After suffering the disappointment of being eliminated from playoff contention last week at D.C. United, the Crew is focused on closing the season with a victory over Toronto FC. With a win, it would give the Black & Gold 15 victories on the season, the most in Robert Warzycha's tenure as Head Coach.

"No matter what game it is for a professional team, it's always important to go out and do well," midfielder Chris Birchall said. "It's the last game of the season, so it will be fond in people's memories of how the season ended. Whether we go out on a high or suffer another disappointment of not winning our last home game. We've done well at home, so if we play to our standards, we should be okay."

"You always want to finish the season on a positive note," Eddie Gaven added. "Of course, we didn't make the playoffs this year, but we want to go into the offseason feeling good about ourselves. To get a win against Toronto would definitely help."

PLAYING FOR THE FANS

As the home finale of 2012, Sunday afternoon will also serve as Fan Appreciation Day at Crew Stadium. The Black & Gold want nothing more to close out 2012 with a victory for their loyal supporters.

"We have to go on the field and we have to win," dedender Sebastian Miranda explained. "We have that responsibility with the fans. That is our mentality."

In his first season in Columbus, Birchall has been overwhelmed by the fans' devotion to the Crew.

"The fans since I got here in May, they've been unbelievable with me," the midfielder said. "They're full of support and acknowledge not just assists and passing, stuff like that, but the hustle and passion that the team gives. I think it's well known in MLS that the Columbus Crew are a hard working team and the fans are very passionate. It's very well known around the League. Especially when I was with LA, I always knew that Columbus was a feisty, intimate, passionate crowd. It proved to be. I'm glad that they're on my side now."

To cap off Fan Appreciation Day, fans will have a chance to win their favorite player's jersey after they wear it during the match.