Crew prepares for return home against Toronto FC

Parkhurst expected to play, Black & Gold await sold-out Nordecke

Steve Clark

Photo Credit: 
USA Today Sports Images

As the old saying goes, "If it isn't broke, don't fix it."

Riding a 3-0-0 start to 2014, that is how the Crew is approaching its Trillium Cup tilt, presented by Scotts, with Toronto FC on Saturday. The focus -- just has it's been in the three previous matches -- is inward and not on the opponent as the Black & Gold prepare for the match.

"It's another game," midfielder Wil Trapp put it frankly. "Every game, we're going to come out and try to play our style. That's what we've been doing all year and focusing on ourselves and not so much the opponent."

PARKHURST EXPECTED TO PLAY

The Crew expects to have its Captain and centerback Michael Parkhurst in the fold after the defender went 90 minutes for the U.S. Men's National Team on Wednesday night against Mexico in Glendale, Ariz. 

Having dealt with juggling club and country duty as a player himself, Sporting Director and Gregg Berhalter doesn't anticipate any drop-off in Parkhurst's game on Saturday.

"Part of international soccer players is they realize that's the schedule: they play on Wednesday, play on Saturday," Berhalter explained. "There are guys all around the world doing it every week. We expect him to come back tired, but in good condition to play. "

He continued: "It's tough, especially when you have some of the travel associated with it. You're also excited. You're happy to come back. You played at a high level, you come back -- it's a boost, I think. It will give the team a boost and for [Parkhurst] personally, on the heels of a good performance, he'll be excited to perform."

FOR THE FANS

For Berhalter, Parkhurst and many others, this is the first official taste of the Crew's rivalry with Toronto FC. With the Trillium Cup on the line over three meetings this season, the Black & Gold are focused on keeping the Cup in Columbus for the sixth time in seveen years.

"It's a rivalry based on season results and anytime you're playing for a cup, you want to win it," Berhalter said. "We're excited about this competition."

Following a dramatic, 2-1 win at Seattle last week that was capped by Justin Meram's 94th-minute winner, the Crew relishes the opportunity to play in front of its fans for a second time this season. The Nordecke corner of Crew Stadium sold out on Tuesday and will provide a hostile atmosphere for the visiting Reds.

"We're excited to play in front of the fans again," goalkeeper Steve Clark said. "We really want to entertain them. We want to go out there, and when the whistle blows, we want to play. That's our style. We want to play our game. We're looking to entertain, looking to win and looking to have a great time. We want everyone to have a great time."

Added Berhalter: "We can't wait. We know it's going to be a very hard game, but we're excited to have the fans behind us."

NO DEFOE, NO PROBLEM? NOT EXACTLY.

Toronto will likely be without its star striker Jermain Defoe following a hamstring injury in last week's 3-0 loss to Real Salt Lake, but Michael Bradley and others still present a challenge for the Crew defense on Saturday.

"Obviously, it would help us if [Defoe] is not playing, but they have other capable guys who can come in," Berhalter admitted. "You look at Dwayne De Rosario, who's been a top forward in the League. Gilberto, is a very good player. They have a good group."

Although the Crew topped the Reds 3-1 in preseason play, Berhalter is more focused on studying Toronto's wins at Seattle and against D.C. United and last week's loss at Real Salt Lake.

"I'm not looking too much into [the preseason] game, I'm looking more of what they've been doing recently," Berhalter said. "It's tough to play in Salt Lake. I played there a number of times and it's not an easy place to play. 

"I think they performed well in Seattle and they performed well at home against D.C., so those are the games we're keying in on."