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Crossing the Touchline: Talking Toronto FC at Columbus Crew SC with James Grossi of Waking the Red

The Trillium Cup continues so we set aside difference with the rivals from the north and chatted on the upcoming match.

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

It's Trillium Cup time once again, as we prepare for another clash between Toronto FC and Columbus Crew SC.

The Black & Gold won the first meeting between these two sides when they met in mid-March by a 2-0 score line at MAPFRE Stadium.

Crew SC enter this match on the back of a two-game winning streak, the team's second of the year, after beating the Chicago Fire home and away last week.

Columbus currently sits in second place in a tight Eastern Conference, but has played more games than the teams right below them.

One of those teams is Toronto, who comes into the match at fourth place in the East, but only three points behind the Black & Gold with three games in hand.

This matchup will pit two of the league's most exciting offensive teams and two of the best players on that side of the ball. Crew SC's Kei Kamara leads Major League Soccer with 14 goals, while TFC midfielder Sebastian Giovinco is right behind him with 12 goals and also adding nine assists.

It should be another tight affair between two sides with eyes on the MLS postseason.

We talked with James Grossi of SB Nation's Waking the Red to get a good sense of what to expect in this game.

Questions for Waking the Red

Massive Report: How does TFC change with no Michael Bradley in the midfield to control things?

Waking the Red: That has been quite the conundrum - no team in MLS could slot in a like-for-like replacement for an asset of Bradley's calibre. 
It has been a mixed bag of late. Benoit Cheyrou moved forward from his deep-lying position against the LA Galaxy in the 4-0 loss. He was fine, but without him controlling the tempo at the base Toronto was simply overrun by LA and forced into errors. 
Against New York City FC the next week, Cheyrou filled that same role, but from a little deeper. Toronto was able to create more chances, but were still extremely fragile at the back, hence the 4-4 draw.
Last weekend against Philadelphia there was a new, more-promising development: Marky Delgado moving into that central role and providing the same energy that Bradley normally does. 
Now, with Jonathan Osorio back from the Gold Cup, it is a little unclear whether he or Delgado will take up those reigns, but either way, that would allow Cheyrou to return to his very important role in front of the back-four.
Osorio may be the better attacker, but Delgado is more active, so we'll have to wait and see which option Greg Vanney deems more important for that role.

MR: Jozy Altidore has six goals in 13 games this season. For a U.S. National Team player and former English Premier League striker (not to mention his nearly $5 million salary), those numbers seem disappointing, but you watch the team more than I do. How would you rate the American's performance since coming back to MLS?

WtR: Yes the numbers can be seen as being a little disappointing, but I think that is as much a function of their limitation, as it is of any under-performance from Altidore. 
What they cannot show, is how much more space is made available to Sebastian Giovinco by having a secondary-threat like Altidore occupying a defender or two. Six Giovinco goals and five assists have come in the 11 matches the two have paired up top - half his goals and two-thirds of his assists. 
While that is not really declaratory - leaving out the hat-trick against NYC Giovinco has three goals in six games without Altidore - it does lend the impression that the two have a decent partnership in the works just 18 matches into the season; not spectacular, but something upon which to build.
Furthermore, Altidore has not really had a chance to be a regular in the side. Whether injury or international duty, his longest run of matches is just six games - hardly the best way to find one's form after a dismal eighteen-months of soul-searching in Sunderland.
The real crux of this issue is whether a designated player needs to produce himself, or, if the team succeeding instead is an acceptable substitute. This is where it gets a little tricky. If Toronto wins, but Altidore is limited on the score-sheet, has he been a success? The goal, after all, is to win; not to have striker A score X number of goals.
And that divide will likely be where the debate will lie. As Toronto has done well so far this season, that Altidore has not contributed as much as he is capable of, has largely flown under the radar. If the results stop coming, it is safe to assume the criticism will soon follow.
From a personal stand point, Altidore has been fine. Weary Toronto fans need to take a long view to retain sanity, so a player coming to a new club, wrestling with fitness, and in and out of the lineup, is not going to be judged with a jaundiced eye. That said, more would always be appreciated.

And with few distractions on the horizon, Bradley playing closer to the attack, and his familiarity with Giovinco coming to light, there is no reason to think that Altidore cannot show the sort of form everyone expects from him.

MR: Giovinco, the best player in MLS or the best player in MLS? What's it like watching a guy who is head and shoulders above the rest of the league play each week? What are the chances he remains with TFC for the foreseeable future?

Forget about that Landon Donovan guy, or the underpants model, or any of those other quality players who have dotted the league for years - looking at you, Thierry Henry
Throw away all the record books and fancy statistics. This kid is incredible.
There have not been a lot of good times at BMO Field, so fans have had to savour every little instance of hope over those eight long years of futility. But every time Giovinco gets on the ball, the place perks up, everyone is enthralled to see what sort of trickery he will pull out of his bag next.
There are not enough superlatives to describe him - one is left to assume that this is what it is like to watch a player like Lio Messi week in and week out; worth the price of admission alone. Every team in MLS should get themselves one of these guys.
There is a lingering fear however, that one week a brute, like Sunderland's Lee Cattermole, will seek to hurt Toronto's treasure, but once one gets past that, it's all good.
As far as how long he will stay, well that depends on how he settles. 
It can be argued that one of the underplayed benefits of MLS is that it affords these megastars a measure of normalcy in their daily lives. The league may never have the prestige of those grand old clubs, or the sheer glamour of the UEFA Champions League, but being able to drive your kids to school, or go out for a coffee without getting mugged can be a worthwhile substitute for the highs of European glory.
As long as he is happy, he can stay.

To see Massive Report's response to Waking the Red's questions, checkout the counterpart on their site!