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Crew-Toronto FC Preview
By KATE HEDLIN
(AP) -- After finishing near the bottom of the Eastern Conference in scoring last season, the Columbus Crew made some additions to boost those numbers for 2012.
The Crew hope to have another one of their playmakers back Saturday when they visit Toronto FC, which is struggling with injuries.
While Columbus finished fourth in the conference in 2011 and reached the playoffs for a fourth straight year, its 43 goals ranked seventh among the East's nine teams.
The Crew lost 1-0 in a wild-card matchup with Colorado last October to end their season.
There may have been some concerns after Columbus lost 2-0 at Colorado in its season opener March 10, but the Crew bounced back with a 2-0 home win over Montreal last Saturday.
Milovan Mirosevic and Olman Vargas scored while Andy Gruenebaum made six saves to lead Columbus (1-1-0).
Mirosevic and Vargas were added to the Crew's roster in the offseason in hopes of boosting a lineup that had to replace 2011 leading scorer Andres Mendoza.
"Milo is incredible in the middle," Gruenebaum said. "He's such a calm presence and such a good playmaker. ... Vargas is great in the air. He really is on the attacking end with his head."
Midfielder Dilly Duka missed the game after injuring his hamstring in the Crew's opener, but he could return this week.
While the club may be feeling more confident on offense, Columbus will have to make a decision about who starts in net. Gruenebaum has started the first two games, but William Hesmer, who was in goal for 33 matches last season, has recovered from a sprained right ankle and is available.
Toronto FC (0-2-0) may not be feeling as optimistic after suffering another injury last weekend, but a solid performance earlier this week could help the club get on track.
Toronto, one of the worst teams in MLS in 2011, lost 3-0 to San Jose at home last Saturday after falling 3-1 at Seattle in its season opener March 17.
However, the club may be feeling better after a 1-1 draw Wednesday against Santos Laguna in a CONCACAF Champions League semifinal, a physical match that ended with a fight between the teams.
Coach Aron Winter thinks it's something his squad can take into MLS play this weekend.
"Even with the two losses, I think we have played decently," Winter said. "We've made some mistakes ... but even when we lost, I think we were on the right track."
Despite the momentum the draw may have given Toronto, it didn't come without a price. Defender Miguel Aceval, who scored in the game, left in the 49th minute with an undisclosed injury. His status for Saturday is uncertain.
Fellow defender Ashtone Morgan was head-butted at the end of the match but is expected to play against Columbus.
Toronto is already without starting goaltender Stefan Frei, who suffered a broken leg before last week's MLS match, while captain Torsten Frings is expected to miss a few weeks with a hamstring injury.
Toronto is 1-0-2 in its last three matches with Columbus, and the past five meetings in Toronto have been a draw.
Updated March 30, 2012