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Columbus Crew SC Understand the Danger of Toronto's Sebastian Giovinco

What can Crew SC do against the league's deadliest attacker?

Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Here is a statistic for you. Sebastian Giovinco has scored or assisted on 13 of Toronto FC's 14 goals this season. Last year's MLS Most Valuable Player is already off to flying start with eight goals and five assists through 11 games in 2016.

It may be needless to say, but the Reds are about as dependent on the 5-foot-4 playmaker as any team in the league is on a single individual.

"I think they are," Columbus Crew SC head coach Gregg Berhalter said of Toronto. "But having said that, I think any team in the league would be. He has exceptional quality, exceptional playmaking and goal scoring quality, and it's hard for me to imagine any team in this league that he's on that they wouldn't be that reliant on him."

This week, Giovinco is Berhalter's headache to figure out as his Black & Gold side prepares to travel north of the border to take on TFC.

Having seen the midfield maestro three times last year, Berhalter understands that you can only hope to contain the former Juventus midfielder who always seems to either be in the right place at the right time or capable of finding his open teammate.

"He's going to have opportunities," Berhalter admitted of Giovinco. "We've seen that when we've played against him. We've been watching his games.

"His quality is very, very high and if we limit him to a few good chances, I'll be happy. I'll be extremely happy."

While to Crew SC fans that almost sound like conceding, it's just the truth when it comes to Giovinco. Despite that, the Black & Gold have done a good job of containing the attacker. In three meetings with Columbus, Giovinco has just one goal and one assist, both coming in last season's July 25 match at MAPFRE Stadium.

"We had a great game against him last season," Crew SC midfielder Mohammed Saeid said. "We contained the threat of Giovinco and hopefully we can do more of the same this year."

Saeid started in the early season meeting between Columbus and Toronto where the Black & Gold won 2-0 and Giovinco was kept quiet. While Saeid will be looking for a similar performance on Saturday evening, he knows the dynamic midfielder has settled into the league.

"It's a good thing I'm the same size as him," Saeid joked.

"It's going to be difficult. It takes a whole team to defend a guy like that. He's a very good player and he's had a great start to the season. It's going to take a team effort."

What could make things even more difficult for Columbus is missing potentially two central defenders for this match. Captain Michael Parkhurst had his shoulder come out of the socket in the first half of last week's 1-1 draw with the Colorado Rapids, but soldiered through the match, as there was no natural replacement on the bench due to a concussion to Tyson Wahl.

Parkhurst was in a sling early in the week and Berhalter said he did not train as of Tuesday. Wahl also was held out early in the week, but Berhalter updated that he was progressing on Thursday. Crew SC listed Wahl as questionable for the match, while Parkhurst's name does not appear on the injury report.

"Hopefully they can play," Saeid said. "But if they don't play, we have players that are ready to step up to play in that position hopefully and ready to take a chance on a starting spot."

With midfielder Tony Tchani also likely still out while dealing with a calf strain, the responsibility of tracking Giovinco when he drops into the midfield will fall on Saeid and Wil Trapp.

"He's a great player," Saeid said of TFC's No. 10. "He can shoot with both feet, he's a great finisher. Like I said, it's going to take a team effort."

While there is certainly a focus on limiting Giovinco's chances, the Black & Gold are aware of the other talent for Toronto that has the Reds sitting just two points off the Eastern Conference leaders.

"I mean they have 10 other players," Saied said. "It's going to be difficult if we all worry about Giovinco and we forget about the other 10 players and they can make something happen."

Paying too much attention to Giovinco and forgetting about the rest of the team could lead to chances, but losing track of Giovinco at all could spell game over. Tough decision.