Vanney preparing TFC as if Altidore will be available
Toronto FC took two of three matches from the Columbus Crew this season, and will look to rekindle some of that success as the two sides prepare for the first leg of the MLS East Conference Championship on Nov. 21.
TFC played the Crew three times within the first three months of the season and haven't seen them since.
Let's take a look at those early season contests to get an idea of what we can expect next week when the playoffs start rolling again.
April 15 in Columbus - Crew 2 TFC 1
Despite outshooting Columbus 19-11, TFC fell to the Crew in mid-April for their first loss of the 2017 season.
Jozy Altidore gave Toronto the early lead in the 21st minute with a header off a corner kick from Victor Vazquez. Crew striker Ola Kamara tied the game just 16 minutes later before Justin Meram broke the deadlock for Columbus in the 44th minute off a corner kick.
"I thought we had a great start. They were having to make all the adjustments against us. We were taking care of the ball and occupying the spots we thought we could create danger for them," TFC head coach Greg Vanney told the Canadian Press after the game.
May 10 in Columbus - Crew 1 TFC 2
Toronto returned to Columbus less than a month later having not lost since their last trip to the Ohio city.
Federico Higuain got Columbus on the board first when he scored on a penalty kick in the 28th minute.
Toronto struggled to find offence in the first half, partly due to the fact Italian striker Sebastian Giovinco was missing his second straight game because of a heel bruise.
Vanney subbed in Canadian Tosaint Ricketts in the 40th minute with the hope he could spark the offence. Ricketts did just that, but waited for the final 10 minutes to prove his coach right.
Ricketts tied the contest in the 81st minute with a header off a nice chip pass from Raheem Edwards and then gave Toronto the lead in the 90th when he was in the right place at the right time.
"Ricketts came on to get two goals, Raheem came on to play two incredible balls, and the group as a whole just kept working through the match both on the defensive side and with the ball to try to create some things," Vanney told CP. "Again, by no means perfect, but this has been an incredible stretch of games and travel for us and to gut out a win here against this team, we'll cherish the three points.”
The victory was Toronto's fifth in a row which was a club record.
May 26 in Toronto - TFC 5 Crew 0
Toronto and Columbus finished off their season series later in the month, this time north of the border.
This one may have been Toronto's most impressive win of the season and should provide comfort for fans with the East Conference Championship just days away from starting.
Without the help of strikers Giovinco (heel) and Altidore (suspension), Toronto still found a way to score five on Columbus for the shutout victory.
Vazquez netted a pair with Justin Morrow, Jonathan Osorio and Jordan Hamilton adding the other three.
After the game, coach Vanney praised the team's depth.
"I've been saying for a while I believe we have the deepest team in the league and maybe the deepest team ever. I stand by that," he told CP. "We've got guys who haven't been playing a ton but are hungry and they're capable. And tonight they came out and made a statement for themselves and as a group.
"I thought the most important thing is no matter who we put out there and how we put them out there, the group works hard for each other."
Toronto bounced back in the win column after the New York Red Bulls snapped their six-game win streak in the previous game. It also marked the quickest (14 games) Toronto has reached eight wins in franchise history.
The victory in late May without Giovinco and Altidore is important because Toronto will be in a very similar position on Tuesday. Giovinco will not play in the first leg of the East Final due to yellow card accumulation, while Altidore will likely also miss the contest due to a suspension if his appeal does not go through.
The playoffs are a different animal compared to the regular season, but it has to be reassuring for fans to know that Toronto has enough fire power to compete against Columbus with two of their big names out.
However, Columbus served one of Toronto's five losses this season and holds a very impressive 12-2-3 home record.