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  • Columbus Crew vs. Toronto FC Match Preview - A Return

    Michael Crampton

    The Crew enter off of an opening day loss in Houston. The 1-0 score line was a harsh reflection on Columbus, however, as they outshot the Dynamo 18 to 8 and only a strong performance by Tyler Deric in Houston’s goal kept the Crew off the board. The Crew looked far from a spent force and with star Argentine Federico Higuain back in the fold for another season it’s hard to see them as anything but likely contenders for a playoff spot in an expansion weakened Eastern Conference.

    The Crew’s big addition since their last meeting with Toronto is returning MLS regular Kei Kamara. The former Sporting Kansas City player had tried his luck in England for a season-and-a-half but left Middlesbrough last summer. Though signed before the end of the 2014 season Kamara had to wait until 2015 to actually be eligible to play. With Sporting, Kamara was part of a powerful and athletic forward line that constantly pressed opposing defenders when out of possession. Crew head coach Gregg Berhalter likely intends to use those attributes to create pockets of space for Higuain to operate in throughout the season.

    Versus the Whitecaps last weekend, Toronto initially had trouble dealing with long balls played into space, particularly behind the advancing Warren Creavalle on the right. Against the Crew, the need to keep compacting the gap between defence and midfield to deny Higuain his preferred zones of operation might lead to a similar high line. Whether Kamara can force the Toronto centrebacks to drop deeper, opening space for Higuain behind him, should be a key tactical battle in the match.

    For TFC, the question is whether the opening 30 minutes in Vancouver were the out of character stretch, or were representative of problems finding a balance that integrates their new attackers into the side. Greg Vanney earned a lot of credit for the way the Reds changed their shape in the second half and ultimately the direction the game seemed to be heading. That erased memories of just how disorganized TFC looked during that opening period. Against better finishing than Vancouver’s Toronto could have been three goals down in that period.

    Regardless of shape and tactics, however, one thing TFC does have in spades this season is talent. The pass from Sebastian Giovinco to Jozy Altidore and the American’s calm finish, that levelled the score before halftime, showed that sometimes simply putting a whole bunch of good players on the field together is all it takes. That’s not something the Reds will want to rely on – over the course of a season organization counts for a lot in a league with MLS’s parity of talent – but it provides a way to get results even when things aren’t going perfectly. As the saying goes, goals win games, and if Altidore and Giovinco are scoring, Toronto doesn’t have to be perfect to win.

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