Caleb Porter believes Columbus Crew’s attacking players do not get the credit they deserve as Gyasi Zardes and Co prepare to take on fellow contenders Toronto.
Eastern Conference leaders Columbus won 2-1 against Minnesota United in midweek with goals from Lucas Zelarayan and Pedro Santos.
The pair assisted goals for one another, while there was also time for Zelarayan to miss a penalty in a busy display.
The Crew have conceded a league-low five goals this season, yet only Orlando City in the East have now scored more than their 22.
“Our defending has gotten a lot of the talk and yet I think quietly we’re becoming one of the best attacking teams in the league,” Porter said. “We have a good balance now. We have Lucas back and Pedro and Luis Diaz and Gyasi. I think they’re all sharing the responsibilities to create something and I think it’s a very good balance for us.”
While Porter was able to marvel at his stars in midweek, next opponents Toronto are repeatedly shuffling their options to combat a tough schedule.
Alex Bono returned in goal for a win against New York City, while Liverpool loanee Tony Gallacher made his debut.
“Credit to the guys playing roles that they don’t usually play, doing things defensively that they don’t necessarily always do,” Greg Vanney said.
“We’ve got to continue to build in our depth. It’s something that we had mapped out, getting guys opportunities. We’ve got to get everybody games. This season has to be something where everybody is able to move forward.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Toronto – Alejandro Pozuelo
Pozuelo has provided at least one goal or assist in nine of his 13 appearances this season. Toronto’s man for the big occasion, his last-minute penalty against NYCFC kept them on the tails of Columbus.
Columbus Crew – Gyasi Zardes
It is not often Zardes does not get on the scoresheet. The forward had four in three before the midweek meeting with Minnesota but watched his attacking team-mates get the job done. He will look to prove the depth of Porter’s forward line on Sunday.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Including the playoffs, Toronto has lost just one of its past eight matches against the Crew (4-0-3) dating back to 2017. TFC has won nine of its past 20 matches (9-5-6) against Columbus after winning just one of the first 17 encounters (1-9-7).
– The Reds picked up their seventh win of the season with a 1-0 victory over New York City after a late Pozuelo penalty. Six of Toronto’s seven MLS wins this season have come by a one-goal margin, with the exception a 3-0 victory over Vancouver Whitecaps in August.
– The Crew are the seventh team in MLS history to collect 30 points from their first 13 matches of a season and the second in as many years after Los Angeles FC also had 30 points at this stage last season. The last team to have more points at this stage of a season was LA Galaxy (32 points) in 2010.
– Pozuelo has been directly involved in an MLS-high 13 goals this season (five goals, eight assists) but has scored in two straight for the first time in the 2020 campaign. Pozuelo has never scored in three consecutive league matches in his career (211 games Belgium, Spain and the United States).
– Going into the final matchday of September, three players are tied for the most direct goal contributions in the month with six – Cole Bassett (three goals, three assists) of Colorado Rapids, as well as Crew duo Zardes (four goals, two assists) and Santos (three goals, three assists).