The Columbus Crew players and supporters came away from last week’s draw against the San Jose Earthquakes with a bad taste in their mouth. The Black & Gold missed out on a clear chance to earn three points on the road after playing 60-plus minutes with a man advantage. Although the team played well for most of the match, poor set piece discipline and a few questionable no calls from the referee saw the Crew come away with only one point.
One week and a few rounds of mouthwash later and that bad taste is starting to fade. The Black & Gold return sto a frigid Lower.com Field to host struggling Toronto FC, who has sleepwalked through the first two weeks of the season. Columbus has a great opportunity to secure three points at home, as TFC has shown the team is more than capable in giving up goals in bunches.
The injury report has grown a bit since last week, as Sean Zawadzki (concussion) and Isaiah Parente (illness) join Kevin Molino (right knee), Josh Williams (left thigh) and Jake Morris (right foot) as players unavailable for selection. However, the core players and Caleb Porter’s first choice starting 11 remain healthy and available.
Here is the Massive Report predicted XI for the 38th installment of the Trillium Cup:
There is only one change from last week’s match against the Earthquakes, as Gyasi Zardes gets the call up top. The American international scored a vintage Zardes goal against San Jose, making a beautiful, direct run into space, somehow going unnoticed by the Earthquakes defenders, and tucking it home with ease. Just as Porter rewarded Miguel Berry with the start last week following a goal-scoring performance against the Vancouver Whitecaps, I fully expect Porter to do the same for Zardes this week.
Porter seems intent on playing both Zardes and Berry without naming a definitive starting striker, and until that moment comes (if it ever does), I fully expect Porter to ride whoever is in better form at that time.
As noted above, although he returned to training this week (in a mostly limited capacity), Williams is out at least one more match as he still recovers from the quad injury he sustained in the preseason. With that being the case, Miloš Degenek will get the nod alongside Jonathan Mensah once again.
The Australian will look for redemption against the Reds after a late and clumsy tackle in San Jose that resulted in a penalty kick awarded to and converted by the Earthquakes. However, if you erase that one bad tackle, Degenek has proven to be a worthy partner to Mensah, as the center back pairing has yet to give up a goal from open play.
This starting 11 should be enough to earn the Black & Gold three points, and to send Crew supporters home cold and happy.