It is the beginning of the ninth Trillium Cup, the annual trophy awarded to the winner of the series between Columbus Crew SC and Toronto FC. After losing the trophy for just the second time two seasons ago, the Black & Gold brought it back to Columbus last year.
This is the first installment of the three-game series in 2016, kicking off the rivalry in Toronto. The two sides will meet again twice in July with a mid-month clash in Columbus followed by a return date to Canada on the final day of the month.
After nearly three months of the season, TFC sits in fourth place in the Eastern Conference with a 4-4-3 record and 15 points. The Reds enter this match on a two-match winless streak. After a 1-0 win over FC Dallas in the first home game of the season on May 7, Toronto lost a crazy game to the Vancouver Whitecaps 4-3 last Saturday and tied New York City FC 1-1 on Wednesday.
TFC is led by 2015 MLS Most Valuable Player Sebastian Gionvinco -- who already has eight goals and five assists on the year -- and U.S. midfielder Michael Bradley. Forward Jozy Altidore picked up an injury in the loss to Vancouver and will miss out on this contest.
Meanwhile, Columbus managed to make it through one of the most hectic weeks in team history that resulted in the trade of forward Kei Kamara to the New England Revolution at the deadline. The team responded with a 1-1 draw at home with league leading Colorado Rapids last weekend.
The hope is that after a settled week, Columbus can focus on soccer and start to get results as the club has just two wins on the year and sits in ninth place in the East. A tough trip to BMO Field awaits though.
To get a better idea of what to expect in this first Trillium Cup meeting of the season, we spoke with Mitchell Tierney, manager of SB Nation's Waking the Red.
Questions for Waking the Red
Massive Report: Crew SC is traveling to the newly renovated BMO Field this weekend. For those who haven't been paying attention, what has been changed with TFC's stadium? How was it having the team gone for so long and how much of a boost is it to be back home?
Waking the Red: BMO Field has spent the past two seasons undergoing a $150 million facelift, are quite impressive. The most notable additions to the stadium is the fact that the stadium has been increased to 30,000 seats, and that a canopy roof now sits over the south, east and west stands. It's incredible how far the stadium has come from 2007 when it was first built, and that will be on full display Saturday. It was certainly odd having Toronto FC away from home for the first eight games of the season, but it took place last year as well so most supporters were used to it. The team's strong performance on the road certainly made it easier, and built up hype towards their return to Toronto. Being back home has been a pretty sizable boost for Toronto FC, before their home opener against FC Dallas a sold out crowd of 30,025 all sang the Canadian national anthem in unison, an incredible moment. The team responded in kind with a 1-0 victory, and their best performance of the season. Since then results have been mixed at home: a 4-3 loss to Vancouver and a 1-1 draw with New York City FC.
MR: In the early years of Toronto FC, it seemed like there was a new manager every time these sides met. Greg Vanney has managed to hang around now for a couple of years now. What has made him stick and how much pressure is on him to finally deliver something for The Reds in the MLS Postseason?
WtR: As you mentioned, missing Altidore is a huge blow to the Toronto FC attack. That was certainly evident last game against New York City FC, when Toronto created several chances but failed to finish off the visitors. Toronto FC got rid of Luke Moore and Herculez Gomez before the season, and without them the club's striker depth is incredibly thin. It has been an issue all season, and one that they will hopefully address during the summer. In Altidore's place, Canadian rookie Mo Babouli will have to carry a heavy weight on his shoulders. Babouli is much more a Giovinco style striker than Altidore, he has good technical ability on the ball and tends to move into different positions over the course of the match. He's a dangerous player, and set up Toronto's lone goal on Wednesday. However, his inexperience often shines through, especially when he tries to take on defenders one-on-one.
MR: When fans think of Toronto, the first name that comes to mind is Sebastian Giovinco. Obviously he is a big part of the TFC attack, but there's 10 other players on the field. Who should Crew SC fans pay attention to in this game, aside from Giovinco, that might have an impact on the contest?
WtR: While Toronto FC certainly missed Altidore on Wednesday, they perhaps missed Canadian midfielder Jonathan Osorio more. The 23-year-old has transformed into one of Toronto's most important pieces, linking the midfield to the attackers in the Toronto lineup. Whether he is playing in the number 10 spot or in the middle of Toronto's diamond midfield, Osorio brings creativity and a passing ability that is central to the TFC attack. He has been out with an ankle injury lately, but is fully expected to return for this weekend's game and could feature in the starting lineup.
To see Massive Report's answers to Waking the Red's questions, head over to their Three Questions preview.