TORONTO – Back at full strength, Toronto FC are expecting a very different match come Wednesday.
When the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs continue then, with the second leg of the Eastern Conference Final against Columbus Crew SC at BMO Field (7:30 pm ET | FS1, TSN 1/4/5, TVAS), TFC will be more dangerous with the return of star strikers Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore.
Both were suspended for the scoreless draw in Columbus on Tuesday.
“Those are two guys that you can't replace,” said defender Drew Moor on Saturday. “Their goal numbers, assist numbers, the way they go at defenders. They're a completely different dynamic than any other team has.”
In the first leg, Toronto found few chances. Without a shot on goal, they relied on Alex Bono's save and a vital defensive block in the waning moments to keep the series level on total goals.
“We weren't able to find as much attack, as much space in the final third, as we would have liked to in Leg 1,” said Moor. “Having those guys back will be a handful for Columbus. It's nice.
“But at the same time we have to play our game, be sure that just because they're back rest we don't rest on our laurels and think everything is going to be OK. We have to play TFC soccer, get after them and take advantage of our opportunities.”
With 16 and 15 goals respectively, Giovinco and Altidore both finished 2017 in the top 10 in league scoring, with no other MLS striking tandem coming close to that production.
“They're two of the best strikers in the entire league,” said fullback Steven Beitashour on Thursday. “It's a whole other series with them involved. In Columbus, it’s disappointing to not get the away goal, the victory. But at the end of the day, you're on the road, missing the two best strikers.
“It's going to be a different game plan coming Wednesday. We're going to prepare this week and we've got to execute.”
Toronto coach Greg Vanney stressed the need to do a better job at turning opportunities into bona fide chances.
“There were those moments there for us; we didn't find them appropriately,” Vanney said of the first leg. “With the additions of Jozy & Seba, that is going to pull the game forward more, give us two very different targets up top. The game will have a different view. When you add two guys like that back to the game, it's going to have a different feel to it.”
While it changes the look and feel for Toronto in Leg 2, it's not as if they're not used to having that pair up top.
“It more changes the approach of their team rather than ours,” said midfielder Jonathan Osorio. “We've played with them all year. Two guys that can come and play, play off each other, and make good plays happen. We'll be looking to use them.”
Said defender Nicolas Hasler: “They have big qualities. Every team is happy if they have two players like those guys. They will help us a lot in the second leg.”