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Columbus Crew SC Hoping to Contain Sebastian Giovinco Again

Can Columbus contain the league's hottest player on Saturday night?

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Sebastian Giovinco has only been shutout - held without a goal or an assist - six times in 18 games this season. The first of those was against Columbus Crew SC and midfielder Mohammed Saeid.

"I think I was lucky," Saeid said with a smile when asked about the performance that earned him quick respect from Crew SC fans.

The central midfielder was more than lucky against the Toronto FC attacker. Saeid's performance in his first start, second appearance, for the Black & Gold was no doubt impressive containing Giovinco, even if he is modest about it.

"It was early on in the season," Saeid explained. "I don't know if he'd had a very good preseason with the team. He was still getting used to the team."

Giovinco made his TFC debut the week previous to that match with an assist and since then has registered 12 goals and eight more helpers.

Columbus and Toronto square off again on Saturday in the second leg of the annual Trillium Cup, the trophy awarded to the team that win's the regular season series. The Reds present several challenges, but the biggest is slowing the All-Star midfielder, who has four goals and two assists in the last two games.

"I don't know if we can stop him to be honest," Berhalter said of Giovinco. "We'll try, but he's tough."

The head coach, who called Toronto's No. 10 "probably the best player in the league" earlier in the week, is just being honest. Hardly anyone in Major League Soccer has been able to stop Giovinco, but the Black & Gold were one of the few.

"I think we can definitely take something from that first game," midfielder Wil Trapp said. "He's always going to be dangerous. It's very difficult to completely neutralize him out of a game. But I think if we keep the ball well, if we tire them out, it will be very difficult for his teammates to get him the ball, his teammates to help him out."

Columbus' possession-based style played a factor in the first meeting. If TFC and Giovinco don't have the ball, it's hard for them to be dangerous.

Of course Crew SC won't have the ball 100 percent of the time and it's when Toronto is in possession that the Black & Gold have to handle them defensively.

"As long as we contain them into the spaces that we've worked on in training, I think it will be good," Saeid explained. "Obviously they've gotten better and better.

"I think us being a possession-oriented team, it will be a difficult game for them. It's going to take them a lot of patience to break us down."

Giovinco is special, the sixth-highest paid player in MLS, and there's a reason he's near the top of the league in every individual offensive category. When Berhalter expresses difficulty in containing him, he's not lying.

"You see the goal he scored against Philly? It's ridiculous. The thing about it is, first of all to beat four guys to the ball is amazing, but then [the ball's] bouncing into his stomach and he still controls it and shoots it on a hop. And he's running full speed! I don't think we appreciate how hard that is to do. I've watched it in slow motion. It's ridiculous. I think that's something that he made look easy, but if you really look at it, no one in the league's doing that."

Crew SC have done it once this season and will be tasked with the same job Saturday night.