TORONTO, Nov 28 (Reuters) - Toronto FC will look to go on the attack as they welcome back forwards Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore from suspension for Wednesday’s crucial Eastern Conference Final second leg against Columbus Crew.
The two strikers were serving one-game suspensions last week when Toronto had no shots on goal and created only a few chances in a goalless first leg in Columbus, which featured a superb performance from goalkeeper Alex Bono.
Giovinco and Altidore combined for 42 percent of Toronto’s goals during the regular season and head coach Greg Vanney believes their return for a game that will determine which team advances to the MLS Cup final should change the complexion of the match.
“With the additions of Jozy and Seba back, that’s going to pull the game forward a little bit more for us and give us two very different targets up at the top,” Vanney said. “The game will have a different view no matter what (compared to the opening leg).
“When you add two guys like that back to the game, it’s going to have a different feel to it. ... We’re going to play to move the game forward and to go after their goal.”
Without their prolific duo, Toronto managed to stifle the Crew attack in the opening leg by sitting deep while relying on Bono in the game’s latter stages.
Altidore missed the game after receiving a red card for violent conduct during a fracas at halftime in the second leg of the East semi-final while Giovinco’s ban stemmed from an accumulation of yellow cards.
Italian Giovinco and American Altidore each finished 2017 in the top 10 of MLS scorers and their return will allow Toronto to play the attacking style that helped them win the points title.
“They’re two of the best strikers in the entire league,” said Toronto defender Steven Beitashour. “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.”
Toronto, who lost to Seattle Sounders on penalties in last year’s MLS Cup final, will need to win outright or in a shootout should the match finish goalless to reach the Dec. 9 championship. Columbus need only a score draw to go through on away goals. (Reporting by Frank Pingue; Editing by Toby Davis)