New York City FC and Toronto FC possess two of MLS' most accomplished scorers, though the supporting casts for both sides are garnering the most attention leading up to Wednesday's important match.
While rising New York City may finally have Frank Lampard back in the mix, the Reds won't have Jozy Altidore available when they attempt to earn an elusive first win in the series.
Toronto announced Monday that Altidore will miss 6 to 8 weeks with a Grade 2 right hamstring strain sustained in Saturday's 4-3 loss to Vancouver, a major blow to both the club and the U.S. national team with the injury likely to keep the key striker from participating in next month's Copa America tournament.
"It's a huge bummer for all of us, especially for Jozy," U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. "He had so much drive and ambitions going toward Copa America. He was preparing himself the entire year, starting in January and he just hoped to peak in June for this very special tournament."
While Altidore's loss is significant to a team that's been carried offensively by Sebastian Giovinco, Toronto (4-4-2) has more immediate concerns on the defensive side following Saturday's messy performance. The Reds fell behind 2-0 through 18 minutes and later conceded goals two minutes apart after pulling even on a Giovinco brace.
Toronto had allowed just seven goals through its first nine matches and recorded clean sheets in three of its previous four.
A return to form will be needed to contain red-hot New York City (4-3-4), which has tallied seven goals over a franchise record-tying three-game winning streak. David Villa, tied with Giovinco for the league lead with eight, has four over the surge and six in three career matchups with Toronto.
Villa struck again in Sunday's visit to Portland, and Thomas McNamara recorded the decider in the 65th minute as New York City exited one of the league's notoriously challenging venues with a 2-1 victory.
"It was a really difficult game. They controlled a lot of the ball. They put a lot of pressure on us," McNamara said. "But I was really proud of the way that the guys stuck together. We defended really well together, we worked really hard for each other and at the end of the day we got a result out of it because of it."
Lampard, out all season with a calf injury, made the trip and trained fully prior to the match, fueling speculation that the former Premier League star will be available Wednesday.
Lampard recorded his first MLS goal in a 2-0 home win over Toronto on Sept. 16, helping New York City go 2-0-1 in the 2015 series. Villa scored twice in a 2-0 victory at BMO Field last June and also had a brace in the clubs' 2-2 draw at Yankee Stadium on March 13, in which Giovinco netted the equalizer in the 76th minute.
Giovinco had three goals and an assist in a 4-4 draw in New York on July 12.