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Scouting Report: Toronto FC

A look at this week's opponent for the Black and Gold, Trillium Cup rivals Toronto FC.

Gary Rohman-USA TODAY Sports

The Columbus Crew and Toronto FC meet on Saturday evening for the second time this year. The first match is likely still burned in the minds of Crew players and fans, as the Reds walked out of Columbus Crew Stadium with a 2-0 win, the first defeat for the Black and Gold of the season.

TFC came into Columbus with a plan and executed it to perfection. They sat back and allowed the Crew to possess the ball, and then hit the Black and Gold on counter attacks.

U.S. international Michael Bradley struck early to give the visiting side an early lead and set the stage for an old game of Park the Bus. This time around, the Crew would like to do things differently.

"We're focused on our movement around the box, but you've got to make it happen though," head coach Gregg Berhalter said when asked how they break down Toronto.

"They were down a man against [Sporting Kansas City] and didn't let up many chances. For us it's going to be executing our movements."

The Black and Gold will hope to capitalize on a poor run of form in the league by the Reds. Since defeating Columbus on April 5, Toronto has compiled a record of 1-3-2 and have fallen behind in the Eastern Conference race.

TFC did reached the final of the Canadian Championship, where they played to a 1-1 draw with the Montreal Impact in Wednesday's first leg, but haven't been able to carry that momentum into MLS play.

They are currently playing without goalkeeper Julio Cesar and Bradley, who are both away on international duty. Midfielder Jackson and forward Bright Dike are both out injured and Steven Caldwell is suspended after receiving a red card against Kansas City.

Despite the losses, Berhalter still believes the match will be competitive, starting with the defense.

"It's a very good defensive team," he said. "They've built a very strong defensive unit over the course of this year. We know it's going to be tough. They're physical, they move well together, they have good organization in their defending. It's tough."

Toronto has only allowed 11 goals on the year - good for second best in the league - but has only played nine games. A closer look reveals they are the eighth best defensive team, with a goal differential of 1.22.

The Reds attack has only managed 11 goals as well but has the potential to score at any time. Jermaine Defoe, who did not play in the last meeting, may be the most lethal finisher when he gets his opportunities. They use their defense to spark their offense on the counter.

"I think they're a counter attacking team," defender Josh Williams said. "They're pretty sound defensively and they like to spring Defoe and Gilberto. Those guys have a lot of quality, a lot of pace.

"I think we just have to be honest defensively, always be aware of where they're at, and close down when there's turnovers. We don't want them springing those guys and letting those guys run wild."

The Crew will look to keep their game plan the same, even without their maestro, Federico Higuain who will serve a one game suspension. They will look to possess the ball and pull the opposition out of position. If they can grab an early goal, that wouldn't hurt either.

"I think what's progressed [since the last meeting] is our level of intensity right out of the gate," Williams said.

"I think last time we played them, we were a little flat. We came out against Chicago and scored early and that sets the tone for us. If we come out a little flatter and we let them get in rhythm, especially at home so we need to go out and set the tone."

The Black and Gold have played well on the road this season, even in losses. It may be even more important to do so in this game as their might be a little revenge on the players' minds.

"They gave us a loss in front of our home fans," Williams said. "We want to go into their place and, I don't know if payback's the right word but return the favor a little bit.

"I think we've had a good week of training and the coaches have us prepared. I think we have a good game plan and we're going to go out there Saturday and execute."