The Columbus Crew come into the first leg of the Eastern Conference Finals after knocking off two centerpiece of recent expansion MLS expansion in Atlanta United and New York City FC. Tonight, they face off against another league crown jewel in Toronto FC in front of a sold out crowd.
The Crew used the long international break to rest up and prepare. The team could relax after a busy stretch that saw travel to Atlanta, Columbus, then New York in little under a week and a half. Only Ola Kamara and Harrison Afful say duty during the international break and were back in Columbus for training over the weekend.
The Supporters Shield winners present a sterner challenge than any other in the league as they ran away with the best record in the league. Tonight’s game presents a unique opportunity for the Black & Gold as Toronto will be missing two key players due to suspension. The Reds will be without Designated Players Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore. The two are talented game changers, but Toronto remains exceptionally dangerous on offense and stout on defense.
Keys to the match:
Play off the crowd: MAPFRE Stadium is sold out and all of those tickets will be used. With considerable stakes on, and off the field, the nearly 20,000 people cheering for the Black & Gold will be in full voice. It propelled them to a big lead early and it could unsettle Toronto just a bit.
Prevent the away goal: Columbus came out strong against New York and likely will again tonight. They needed all four of those home goals as they collapsed during the second leg. That late NYCFC goal at MAPFRE loomed large. Columbus can’t settle for a 0-0 draw, but giving up a goal to TFC will make the series a whole lot harder.
X Factor: Toronto will get chances. Their offense is too good. That means that Zack Steffen will have to step up big again. The young keeper was the edge against Atlanta and came up when needed in two legs again NYCFC. Columbus will need him again.
How to Watch:
Date/Time: Tuesday November 21st, 8:00 p.m. ET
Venue: MAPFRE Stadium
Listen: CD102.5 FM (English Broadcast) La Mega 103.1 FM (Spanish)