TFC suffers a setback

DEAN McNULTY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:55 AM ET

Toronto FC's march to its first Major League Soccer win and its first MLS goal was dealt a blow yesterday when coach Mo Johnston revealed his most potent offensive player -- Alecko Eskandarian -- is out with a calf injury.

Eskandarian, who had three scoring chances turned away in TFC's 1-0 home opening loss to Kansas City 10 days ago, did not practise yesterday at BMO Field and there is "no chance" he'll be better in time for tomorrow's game against the Chicago Fire.

"Alecko hurt his calf during practice (Monday)," Johnston said. "It's unfortunate because he was one of our best players last week."

TFC will start Edson Buddle in place of Eskandarian. Buddle is no stranger to the offensive side of the ball, having scored 33 goals in his four-year MLS career.

He had been pencilled in to start up front when the season began, but Johnston felt that Eskandarian beat him out of a job during spring training.

"It was really tough to see Eskandarian go down after the game he played against K.C.," Johnston said. "But that is why we have Edson here, to come in and contribute at a high level. Look at his stats. He knows how to score in this league."

Johnston said that the prospect of facing two premier MLS teams -- Chicago, then Houston four days later -- may be daunting, but he believes TFC fans want to see the club against the top teams.

"If we want to get into a playoff position at the end of the season, we are going to have to play against the top teams," he said. "I think it will be good for our team."

Another of TFC's walking wounded -- midfielder Ronnie O'Brien -- has taken part in full contact drills all week and Johnston said he expects him to play his first game tomorrow.

Meanwhile, the long wait for highly touted 21-year-old Abbe Ibrahim ended yesterday when the Togo native finally cleared Canadian immigration to practise with TFC.

"He is not anywhere near ready," Johnston said. "The kid has been living pillar to post all over America. It's going to take some time before he is up to speed with the rest of the guys."

Ibrahim admitted he has been frustrated by not being able to train with the team that obtained him via a trade with New York Red Bull in a pre-season deal.

"I hope I can be ready in a couple of weeks," he said. "But I am very happy to be here."


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