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Columbus set to capitalise on a depleted Toronto

Columbus Crew's Federico Higuain could play a starring role
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MLS Eastern Conference final, first-leg
Sky Sports Football, 1am Wednesday

The absence of two of MLS’s hottest strikers from the Toronto ranks gives Columbus Crew an outstanding chance of victory in the first leg of the Eastern Conference final.

The Ohio club are a powerful force at the Mapfre Stadium where they have won seven and drawn the other one of their last eight matches.

The most recent of those successes was a scintillating 4-1 thrashing of New York City in the previous round.

Gregg Berhalter's men are a real powerhouse in front of their own fans and they deserve even more respect given Toronto go into battle minus their front two of Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco.

The strikers, responsible for 42 per cent of Toronto’s goals during the Canadian side’s regular-season campaign which saw them finish top the conference, are both suspended.

It remains to be seen how Greg Vanney lines up, but the clever money is on Tosaint Ricketts leading the line on his own.

There are two crumbs of comfort for Toronto fans and backers.

First, Toronto played four matches during the season minus both Altidore and Giovinco, and one of those ended in a 5-0 drubbing of Columbus, albeit at home.

Second, when Toronto visited the Mapfre this season they won 2-1 with Ricketts scoring both.

Those games were, however, back in May.

Columbus, with Will Trapp having developed into an organisational colossus and Federico Higuain, Gonzalo’s older brother, outstanding in the number ten role, are a different side now.

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Second, when Toronto visited MAPFRE Stadium this season they won 2-1 with Ricketts scoring both
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