Next goal wins? Toronto, Crew SC carry dueling optimism into Leg 2 of ECC

COLUMBUS, Ohio – If Tuesday night’s scoreless draw between Toronto FC and Columbus Crew SC was a bit cagey, the second leg of the Eastern Conference Championship series should offer a welcome change of pace.

The fact that the match is essentially a knockout game will attribute to that pace change, but so will the different lineups both teams will feature in Leg 2 (Wed., Nov. 29, 7:30 pm ET | FS1 in US, TSN1/4/5, TVAS in Canada).

For Toronto, the match marks the return of their powerhouse attacking duo, Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore, who were both suspended for the first leg. After the draw in Columbus, TFC head coach Greg Vanney emphasized how important those two additions will be.

“I think we’re an entirely different team with them on the field,” Vanney said. “[They affect] our ability to connect off the front line, our ability to have more playmakers, goal-scorers, difference-makers – they add something entirely different. Also, it will add something different for [Columbus], in terms of what they have to deal with.”

But whether it’s Tosaint Ricketts or the two stars in attack, Michael Bradley said Toronto don’t change their focus, and he was pleased with what they accomplished Tuesday.

“The mindset isn't different; it's to play, to compete, to try to go after things,” Bradley said. “I thought we did that. Everybody who steps on the field is going to bring their own qualities. We're not asking Tos to be Jozy or Seba, we want him to be himself. Give us everything he can. I thought he did that tonight. Without two of our biggest attacking threats we still came here with the intention to play, compete, go after things. In the end we walk out 0-0 with everything to play at our place.”

Columbus will be subtracting rather than adding. Key midfield cog Artur will be suspended on yellow-card accumulation, likely meaning Mohammed Abu will step into his place.

Artur admitted he was frustrated to pick up the yellow, but Gregg Berhalter said he’ll have just as much confidence in Abu, who appeared against New York City FC in the team’s last playoff match.

“We’ll miss [Artur],” he admitted. “He’s quality and covers a lot of ground. But the good thing about the way it turns out is that Mohammed has played lately. He’s done a good job. He did a good job in New York and we expect him to do a good job again if his number is called.”

While Berhalter admitted the additions of Giovinco and Altidore “totally change the game,” he said they don’t change Columbus’ outlook.

“If we score in Toronto, the complexion of the whole series is going to change,” he said. “That’s going to be our focus.”


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