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The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Toronto FC aims for season sweep of Crew in homecoming for Oduro, Hagglund

TORONTO - Toronto FC will look to complete a sweep of the season series when they visit the Columbus Crew for the third and final meeting of the season Saturday.

TFC has defeated the Crew twice this season with a 2-0 victory in Columbus on April 5 and a 3-2 win in Toronto on May 31. Toronto is 2-7-2 all time at Crew Stadium entering the match.

"When I look at those Columbus games and I look at our team now, I see two different teams to tell you the truth," said coach Ryan Nelsen. "I see a different team in us. We're a lot more mature, a lot better with the ball.

"Obviously we've got a couple of injuries still in the back, but I feel like we've kind of progressed on."

It's a homecoming of sorts for former Columbus midfielder Dominic Oduro, who was acquired by Toronto (8-7-5) on June 6 in exchange for Alvaro Rey.

Oduro appeared in 45 games for the Crew (6-7-9) contributing 13 goals.

Following Friday's training session, Oduro was downplaying the significance of the game.

"It's just another game, I'm not going to try to push it otherwise I'll lose my focus," he said. "You just have to keep your cool, especially against a former team. These games are really critical; you don't want to try to prove too much against your former team. I believe I know my ability and they know my abilities too."

Additionally, TFC defender Nick Hagglund, a native of Cincinnati, Ohio, who made his MLS and Reds debut on April 5 at Crew Stadium will have as many as 60 family members in attendance.

Toronto will be without Jermain Defoe for a second straight game. The team announced Monday that the forward would miss up to three weeks with a groin injury. Additionally, the Reds will once again be without captain Steven Caldwell (quad) and defender Mark Bloom (MCL strain).

"They're three major things," said Nelsen of the injuries. "All the other teams seem to cry out from the roof tops when they get injuries, but nobody seems worried when we do. We've just got to get on."

Nelsen added that both Caldwell and Bloom are close to returning to full training, but their availability for Toronto's game at Kansas City (Aug. 16) is uncertain.

Columbus enters the match coming off a 1-1 draw against the Chicago Fire last weekend.

Federico Higuain leads the Crew in goals (8) and assists (5).

Meanwhile, Toronto split a pair of road games last week dropping a 3-0 decision at D.C. United before picking up the clean sheet in Montreal with a 2-0 victory.

"Obviously if we win this game (Saturday), it sets us up in a really nice position with a very difficult game against Kansas City," said Nelsen. "After that, it's a favourable kind of run in and I think we're getting better and better. We're evolving, as the season is evolving, quite nicely.

"I think three points against Columbus will be a huge step to where we want to be."

Three points in Columbus will also create some breathing room for Toronto in the Eastern Conference standings.

Currently the third place Reds lead the fifth place Crew by just two points with a pair of games in hand.

"A bunch of six-pointers really when you look at it, not only will you take three points, but you take it away from the other teams," said midfielder Collen Warner. "Very important games coming up."

Added Oduro: "At this point, every point counts in the table. Especially second half of the season, this is where you have to separate the men from the boys."

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