Toronto FC faces rival Columbus without star strikers Altidore, Giovinco

TORONTO — Jozy Altidore will cheer on from the sidelines while serving a suspension. Sebastian Giovinco is in the final stages of recovering from an injury.

Toronto FC hosts the Columbus Crew on Friday night without their star strikers but as coach Greg Vanney pointed out Thursday, Toronto’s depth has been a significant factor in its seven-game unbeaten streak. And it’s about to be tested once again.

“Scoring goals,” Vanney said with a laugh when asked about the challenges TFC faces without Altidore and Giovinco. “But I think it’s the opportunity for other players to step in.

“Obviously Jozy and Seba account for quite a few of our goals.”

They have 12 goals between them. The rest of the roster has a combined eight.

“Obviously Tosaint (Ricketts) has been that guy as the third forward who’s come in and (scored),” Vanney continued. ”We have other guys who are capable of stepping up, we have creators, we have guys who will get in goal-scoring positions. But the easy answer to that is we lose our top two strikers — and guys who quite frankly other defences fear a little bit more in the grand scheme of things — but we’ll come with something that we believe will also score goals and create goals (Friday).”

There is good news for Toronto in that Giovinco is on pace to make a return to the lineup next week.

The 30-year-old hasn’t played since straining a quadriceps muscle against Minnesota on May 13. However he has practised the last two days, including Thursday’s session in blustery, wet conditions at the team’s training ground in the city’s northwest end.

Giovinco had an MRI exam Wednesday, Vanney said, that showed “almost complete healing, but not quite.” He’ll get another MRI in the coming week and could be cleared to play in the June 3 game versus New England, and perhaps even Wednesday when Toronto hosts the Ottawa Fury in the second leg of their semifinal for the Voyageurs Cup — Canada’s club championship.

“Hopeful, optimistic. I’m not sure if Wednesday is even in the potential range. But he’s approaching three weeks and that was the initial prediction,” Vanney said.

Toronto is being cautious with Giovinco, who has six goals this season.

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