The Columbus Crew are ending their season with what is ultimately an insignificant game for the first time since 2008. Yes, Sunday afternoon's game against Toronto FC is the last of the Trillium Cup games this year (the trophy given to the team with the better record against the other during the season), but that will be the last time the Crew see the field in 2012.
Last week's 3-2 loss in D.C. officially knocked Columbus out of the playoff race. They have 49 points on the year (14-12-7), four behind the last playoff spot in the East.
Toronto, on the other hand, has been out of the postseason chase for awhile. They are in last place in MLS by six points with only 23 on the year (5-20-8). Toronto's most recent game was a 1-0 away loss on Wednesday to Santos Laguna in the CONCACAF Champions League, effectively knocking them out of the competition.
This will be the third meeting between Columbus and Toronto this season. The first on March 31st in Canada's largest city resulted in a 1-0 win for the Crew. The second game on August 22nd ended in a 2-1 home win for Columbus.
The Crew will be missing a few key pieces of the team on Sunday. Captain Chad Marshall is most likely out due to an ankle injury, while midfielders Danny O'Rourke and Milovan Mirosevic are expected to miss due to a concussion and a hamstring injury respectively. Defender Julius James is also struggling with hamstring problems, so expect a new look Crew defense on Sunday. If James is not ready to play, Josh Williams could slide over to the center, allowing Nemanja Vukovic to come in and play left back. Some young players could get minutes toward the end of the game, including attacking midfielder Ben Speas, who has yet to make his first team debut.
Toronto has a few dangerous offensive players, including forwards Ryan Johnson and Eric Hassli and midfielder Luis Silva. Johnson has seven goals and four assists this season, while Hassli has three goals and two assists in only seven games with the team. Silva has both five goals and assists. Left-back Ashtone Morgan can also maraud forward and help out the attack, evident by his five assists this year.
Prediction: Crew 0-2 TFC
Toronto's last and only major hope for the season ended on Wednesday. They will be the underdogs for the Trillium Cup on Sunday and will relish the role against a downtrodden Crew team.