If it seems like Columbus Crew SC fans just saw Toronto FC, it’s not an aberration. The Reds came to MAPFRE Stadium two and a half weeks ago as the first of a three-match home stretch for the Black & Gold.
The team Columbus fans saw on the field from the visitors that night will likely not be what they see on Sunday when the two teams meet again for the third and final time in 2016.
TFC head coach Greg Vanney used that match to rest superstar Sebastian Giovinco (who played in the second half of Thursday’s MLS All-Star Game alongside Wil Trapp), while forward Jozy Altidore, midfielder Michael Bradley — both stars in their own right — and goalkeeper Clint Irwin all missed out on the contest with various injures.
While Bradley and Irwin remain sidelined, Altidore made his return last week for Toronto after missing nine games, coming off the bench for 18 minutes in a 4-1 home win over D.C. United.
Even though it hasn’t been that long since Crew SC last saw TFC, we at Massive Report felt fans didn’t get the full show last time around. So we turned once again to Mitchell Tierney of SB Nation’s Waking the Red to get his thoughts on the team before the final Trillium Cup meeting.
Questions for Waking the Red
Massive Report: I would assume Sebastian Giovinco will be available this time around after Greg Vanney left him in Toronto in the last meeting between these two teams. How will he, and possibly Jozy Altidore, change the way TFC approaches this contest?
Waking the Red: There is the potential that the Crew get lucky again [Editor’s Note: The Crew don’t get lucky] as Sebastian Giovinco just made a cross continent flight from San Jose to Toronto. The club may not start him as a result, but he will almost certainly feature in some capacity.
However, no matter what happens, this won't be the same Toronto FC attack that the Crew have faced this season. The return of Jozy Altidore makes everyone better, as he creates space and time for other attackers like few others in MLS. When Altidore is in the lineup Giovinco looks significantly more comfortable as teams cannot put nearly as much pressure on him.
On top of this, the club just signed Canadian international striker Tosaint Ricketts who looked excellent in his debut, hitting the post. Ricketts is a striker like Dominic Oduro who has pace to burn and seems to combine very well with Giovinco and Altidore. Jordan Hamilton and Mo Babouli are also options for Toronto FC.
MR: Jordan Hamilton looked good in Columbus even before he scored the equalizer. How is the 20-year old Canadian developing with TFC and how much has he benefited from Altidore's absence?
WtR: Patience has ultimately defined Jordan Hamilton's development. Highly touted for a long time, the young Canadian was signed by Toronto FC three years ago but only played 14 minutes going into this season.
Finally, he got his chance when Altidore went down and he took it. In his first ever start with TFC, against Montreal in the Canadian championship, he scored twice. He hasn't looked back since. It's to the point now where Vanney has said he isn't automatically giving Altidore his starting spot back, Hamilton has played that well.
MR: Toronto have only dropped one game at home this season but are only 3-6-3 on the road. What has made BMO Field such a great home field advantage for The Reds this year?
WtR: Some of it has been opposition. Toronto FC have tended to play better teams on the road versus at home and as a result have dropped points there.
But more than anything there has been a different level of atmosphere around BMO Field this year. The new-look stadium has brought a new energy that the players have fed off of all year long. It started from the home opener, a 1-0 win over FC Dallas. It's very good news because the club have the most home games in the league between now and the end of the season. If they can keep this up they will be in a very good spot when all is said and done.
To read Massive Report’s responses to Waking the Red’s questions, head on over to their site and check out the Previewing the Enemy story.