03/13/2015 12:47 EDT | Updated 05/13/2015 05:59 EDT

Marathon road trip continues for Toronto FC in Columbus against the Crew

TORONTO - The early signs were encouraging for Toronto FC last weekend in rallying for a 3-1 comeback win in Vancouver.

Despite a slow start by the expensively assembled team, Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore showed their pedigree as well as flashes of the kind of attractive one-touch football that should become more prevalent the more they play together.

Fellow newcomers Benoit Cheyrou, Damien Perquis and Robbie Findley also look to be significant upgrades.

Still captain Michael Bradley isn't letting only the third season-opening win in franchise history go to his head.

"It's a good start for sure but it's just that, a start," he said. "You won't find anybody in our group going on about it too much. Thirty-three more games to go plus the playoffs and so we have to have the mentality, the humility, the commitment to keep improving every day."

A win Saturday in Columbus would tie Toronto's best-ever start. Toronto won its first two games last year, away to Seattle and home to D.C. United.

Toronto will have to make franchise history the hard way — on the road. Because of ongoing BMO Field renovations, coach Greg Vanney's team faces games at Columbus, Real Salt Lake, Chicago, FC Dallas, Orlando and Philadelphia before finally playing at home against Houston.

"For us, the biggest thing is to make sure that from these seven games we get something from it," said Altidore. "We're off to a good start with the three points from Vancouver. Now (we're) going to Columbus, a place where the team had success last year. So we're going there with the right attitude and trying to take something from the game.

"We can't worry about the seven-game road trip. We have to take games one step at a time, one game at a time."

Toronto has just 19 away wins since entering the league in 2007, compiling a dismal 19-80-30 mark on the road. Its four away victories last season were a franchise high.

Altidore has hit the ground running with Toronto, matching Jermain Defoe's debut last season with a pair of goals and player of the week honours.

"He's able to hold things up, he's able to get in behind players," said Vanney. "His feet are soft, he can take you one-on-one to get goal-scoring chances. So he's got a lot of facets to his game that make him very dangerous, and he's hungry right now. He wants to score goals so that makes him a handful."

The Crew are coming off a 1-0 loss in Houston that saw them outshoot the Dynamo 18-8 (6-3 in shots on target) while winning eight corners to the home side's one. Star playmaker Frederico Higuain hit the crossbar as the Crew had nearly 60 per cent of possession.

Columbus will be without former Toronto midfielder Tony Tchani, who was suspended one game for a dangerous tackle on Houston's Leonel Miranda. Mohammed Saeid is a possible replacement.

Crew winger Justin Meram is eligible to return from his suspension.

Keeping a close eye on Higuain is at the top of Toronto's to-do list.

"He moves around the field pretty freely. Some people like to go man-on-man but it's hard to do that with a guy who moves so much," said Vanney. "You have to be clearly aware of where he is at all times, just because his ability to get on the ball and pass out of different spaces on the field is excellent."

Toronto has a 5-10-7 career record against the Crew, going 3-7-2 in Columbus. But Toronto won all three meetings between the two last season, including both games in Columbus.

The Crew announced a contract extension Friday for head coach Gregg Berhalter, who doubles as sporting director. Berhalter, 41, is now under contract with the club through the 2017 season.


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