Toronto FC trusting in depth in wake of star forwards' suspensions

TORONTO – The next time Toronto FC take to the pitch in the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs, they'll be missing two key pieces from their attacking corps.

Forwards Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore will both be suspended for the first leg Eastern Conference Championship against Columbus Crew SC on Nov. 21, Giovinco for caution accumulation and Altidore after a tunnel altercation that saw him sent off with a halftime red card in the second leg of the conference semifinal against the New York Red Bulls.

"We've lost them as of now," manager Greg Vanney said. "There's video footage of what happened in the tunnel.”

The Reds' take: They'll deal with it. 

“I couldn't care less about next game right now,” said midfielder and captain Michael Bradley after last Sunday's second leg, which saw TFC advance on away goals after a 2-2 draw on aggregate. “This time of year you worry about right here and right now. If you start thinking ahead, start playing the next game in your head before you're done with this one, then you can get yourself in trouble real quick.

“Would we prefer to have Jozy and Seba in the first game against [Columbus]? Absolutely,” added Bradley. “But we've played without [them] before and we'll do it again.”

Vanney had a ready response when asked what he'll do without his frontmen: “Put somebody else up there. That's the way it is.”

Tosaint [Ricketts] has been excellent for us over the course of the year,” added Vanney. “No issue putting [him] on the field. He gives us presence, size, speed, a goalscoring threat.”

In 22 appearances this season, totaling 1,003 minutes, Ricketts has seven goals for TFC. With Altidore and Giovinco injured down the home stretch, the Canadian forward netted back-to-back braces in September. And he was instrumental in last season's run to the MLS Cup, scoring two goals in 134 minutes of playoff action.

Speaking the day before the match, Ricketts noted: “I'm always ready when called upon. I've just got to wait for my moment, be patient.”

That moment will come sooner than expected, though Vanney said formational questions remain: "Who do we partner up with him if we decide to go to two, or how do we create the structure around Tosaint?”

Forwards Jordan Hamilton and Ben Spencer are candidates to step in. Alternatively, Victor Vazquez could be pressed higher up the pitch in support of a lone striker.

“We will see what the coach decides,” said Vazquez. “We know that we will lose Seba and Jozy; they are the ones that make goals, but we will make a good result [away and] finish it here in Toronto.”

Defender Drew Moor agreed.

“You can't replace those two,” Moor said. “But we've shown all season that we have a deep squad. We're going to go in, have a measured approach to the first leg on the road, try to get a goal or two; try to win the game.

“Like any playoff game, the tone has to be set early."