05/19/2015 11:11 EDT | Updated 05/19/2016 05:59 EDT

Toronto FC coach Greg Vanney faces big questions at both ends of the pitch

TORONTO - Nine games into the MLS season, Toronto FC coach Greg Vanney finds himself with big questions at both end of the pitch.

News that star striker Jozy Altidore will be out four to five weeks with a hamstring tear means Toronto has to find goals from elsewhere. And the fine play of backup goalie Chris Konopka, named to the MLS team of the week for his performance in a 1-1 tie in New England, has complicated what happens when starter Joe Bendik returns from his foot injury.

At least Vanney has some time to ponder the situation.

After five games in two weeks, Toronto (3-5-1) doesn't play until Saturday when it hosts the Portland Timbers (3-4-4).

"Guys will have to step up," Vanney said Tuesday of the Altidore injury. "But that's why we have a 29-man roster. We have to give guys opportunities."

Altidore, with five goals, and Sebastian Giovinco, with four, have accounted for nine of Toronto's 13 goals.

Vanney has limited attack options other than England's Luke Moore and Canadian teenager Jordan Hamilton. Robbie Findley is injured (Achilles) and Bright Dike is on loan to San Antonio and cannot be recalled until July.

Vanney could play Giovinco up front and use someone else in the hole behind the striker where the five-foot-four Italian has been deployed. The so-called Atomic Ant, who has been treated like a pinata by opposition defenders, can expect an even rougher ride with Altidore sidelined.

It's the second season in a row a TFC big-money forward has been sidelined after a hot start. Jermain Defoe missed almost all of the second half of the season through injury before returning to England.

Vanney welcomed the goalie competition.

Konopka, who had played just two league games prior to this season, has now started five in a row and looked better each time out.

"Now between the two of them, they're really going to battle it out and see who can be our guy," Vanney said. "And I think that's fair. That's the way every other position is and I think that's the way the goalkeeper position should be."

Asked whether he agreed with a player losing his starting position to injury, Vanney said: "Not entirely, but I also don't believe that a winning team should necessarily change its formula."

Bendik has profited from injury in the past, taking over two seasons ago when Stefan Frei went down in pre-season. He also lost his starting job temporarily last season when Toronto brought in Brazilian World Cup 'keeper Julio Cesar.

Vanney said Bendik is back training but not yet 100 per cent. Konopka is also nursing a minor groin issue, so health may play into selection.

Altidore was forced to leave in the 21st minute in Saturday's 1-1 draw in New England, pulling up after running at goal.

A four-week absence for Altidore covers three MLS games for Toronto while five weeks encompasses four contests, although there are two games in four days after that. Chances are Toronto won't rush its prized forward back.

Complicating things is that the U.S. opens play at the Gold Cup on July 7, which is seven weeks from now.

Altidore could get healthy and then leave on international duty.

"I suppose it's conceivable," said Vanney. "We'll see as we go."

"The concern is if he's not 100 per cent healthy that maybe he doesn't go to the Gold Cup ," he added. "But I don't want to take up that battle just yet."

Canada could summon Hamilton and attacking midfielder Jonathan Osorio for the July 7-26 Gold Cup, further cutting into TFC's attacking options.


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