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Crossing the Touchline: Toronto FC at Columbus Crew SC

It’s the second meeting with TFC, but what has changed since May’s 0-0 draw?

There’s no excuses for Columbus Crew SC. The team may have traded its star striker from a year ago and dealt with a ton of injuries this year, but the players and the staff aren’t using that as excuses.

This is especially the case on Wednesday when the Black & Gold face a team with similar injury issues as Toronto FC. Team captain Michael Bradley has missed the last five matches with a knee sprain, star forward Jozy Altidore hasn’t played since mid-May with hamstring injury and starting goalkeeper Clint Irwin is out with a quad injury.

Despite the injuries, Toronto is still a talented side and sit in fifth place in the Eastern Conference with 23 points through 17 games. Last year’s MLS MVP Sebastian Giovinco will still be on the field and is always very dangerous.

These two sides have already met once this season, a 0-0 draw in Toronto. While Columbus controlled much of that match, Crew SC was unable to find the back of the net.

To get a better idea of where TFC is since May, we turned to our friends at Waking the Red and manager Mitchell Tierney.

Questions for Waking the Red

Massive Report: Sebastian Giovinco has gone relatively cold recently. Although he's still creating chances for TFC, he has not scored in seven matches. What has gone wrong for last year's MVP and how close is he to breaking out?

Waking the Red: It's been an interesting time for Giovinco, because he seems to be doing everything right but still cannot seem to find the back of the net. He did score in the first leg of Toronto FC's Voyageurs Cup final against the Vancouver Whitecaps, but even that was a lucky deflected goal. Why he's not scoring is likely a combination of bad luck, who is on the field around him and an injury that he suffered recently. The adductor injury saw him miss the better part of three games between the league and the Canadian Championship, and could well have affected him further.

Many have pointed out that Giovinco's goalless start began when he wasn't selected for Italy's Euro 2016 squad. That would be one explanation perhaps, but Toronto FC fans have seen being left off of a national team ruin a player before: Jermain Defoe in 2014. This looks completely different. The more likely explanation is that this all started when Jozy Altidore went down injured. It is no secret that Altidore creates room for Giovinco, so his likely return this week [Editor Note: Altidore is now listed as out] will be welcome for the Italian.

As for how close he is to breaking out, you could say it is reaching a boiling point. He had an astounding 13 shots against the Chicago Fire on Saturday, and will be looking to pepper the Columbus Crew net again midweek. Nobody in the Toronto camp would be surprised if he found the back of the net, perhaps more than once.

MR: Like Crew SC, Toronto has a pretty long injury list with some key players missing time: Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, Clint Irwin to name a few. Who is the biggest miss and why out of those who aren't healthy right now for TFC?

WtR: It is tough to say, as they are all key pieces to the Toronto FC puzzle, and you can add Will Johnson to that list as well with his broken leg. But the man that Toronto FC have most visibly missed has been Altidore. Goalkeeper Alex Bono has stepped in and done a decent job in the Toronto net in Irwin's absence, Benoit Cheyrou has filled to void in the midfield.

Up front, however, while Jordan Hamilton and Mo Babouli have done a capable job the goalscoring for Toronto has dried up without Altidore. While he hasn't scored yet this season, the American international was still central to the offense and what it created.

MR: In this jam-packed week, the Reds played at home Saturday, travel to Columbus for the midweek game, then head out to San Jose for another weekend game. Do you expect the match congestion to affect Toronto? Could it mean a change in the lineup for this contest?

WtR: Perhaps, but likely only minor moves as all of Toronto's core pieces tend to play week in, week out. Benoit Cheyrou is a player who always needs to have his minutes managed, so he could come off the bench in this match. One of the centrebacks, Drew Moor or Eriq Zavaleta might also sit out in favour of Damien Perquis. But don't expect much of a roster overhaul for this match.

To see what Massive Report had to say in response to Waking the Red’s questions, click on over to their site.