David Beckham will feel quite at home this weekend, walking around the same BMO Field with a group of other injured players wearing Toronto FC track suits.
It is certain that bad-ankle Becks will be flying here tomorrow with the Los Angeles Galaxy, practising, then holding court at the Air Canada Centre the same day. On Sunday, he likely will go through warmups for the Galaxy's 7:30 p.m., match.
But after that, all bets are off concerning his Major League Soccer debut as a starter in front of 20,500 fans, as well as CBC, Fox Sports West and ESPN2. It is hoped he will enter the game as a late substitute.
On the day the Galaxy had hoped to make its decision on the TFC game, coach Frank Yallop yesterday told The Associated Press that Beckham no longer is limping when he runs, but cautioned that he has only just resumed full training.
Galaxy president and general manager Alexi Lalas told Sportsnet that Beckham's ankle will receive plenty of treatment on the long flight to Toronto.
"He has gotten better," Lalas said. "But we have a vested interest in this guy. We want to make sure that we're not doing anything that's going to cause problems further down the line.
"So, if he's ready to go and the coach feels it's appropriate, then he'll get in there. This is killing him not to play."
Losers of three consecutive games (two MLS and one friendly to Aston Villa), in last place in the conference, beset by injuries and rushing a new goalkeeper into the fray, TFC can't be caught star-gazing on Sunday.
"We're hurting, but we'll get through it," said coach Mo Johnston, who could be without Danny Dichio, Jeff Cunningham and Andrea Lombardo up front, midfielder Ronnie O'Brien and defenders Jim Brennan, Andrew Boyens and Marvell Wynne.
Goalkeeper Greg Sutton continues to suffer post-concussion syndrome and a lack of faith in Srdjan Dejankovic and young David Monsalves led TFC to approach Division 1 Dutch team ADO den Haag about borrowing Grimsby-born Josh Wagenaar.
But The Canadian Press reported yesterday that Greek-born and Toronto-raised Kenny Stamatopoulos will be introduced today, on loan from a Norwegian team.
"We'll have a goaltender flying in this afternoon," Johnston said without revealing the name. "We've put some hard work into this. It's always tough to get a goalie halfway through the season. He has to sign certain forms and, if that gets done, he'll be added to our roster for Sunday. If not, we'll be looking at Monsalves."
Brennan and Lombardo are the most likely to be ready for Sunday.
TFC players were trying to be nonchalant about Beckham, citing the importance of beating the Galaxy and respecting their top gun, Landon Donovan. But for UK-born players such as Andy Welsh, Carl Robinson and Dichio, there will be some genuine excitement.
The 23-year-old Welsh is Manchester-born and United-bred and cheered Beckham at Old Trafford before playing at Sunderland and then joining TFC.
"If he does play, we can't be in awe. If he doesn't, it means it's better for us," Welsh said. "He can do so much around the box with his passing.
"I'm sure it will be a memorable (evening) for the fans, but we have to forget about the (hoopla). We let a lot of people down against Chicago in our last game (a 3-0 home loss)."
Robinson has kept count of the four times he has lost to Beckham-led teams, three with Man U in the Premiership and once in an England-Wales game.
"He put on one of the best passing games I've ever seen against Wales at Millennium Stadium (in Cardiff)," Robinson recalled. "He (makes news) off the field, but you have to respect him as a player and I think 99% of the UK does."
Beckham has been held to 12 minutes of Galaxy action and that was back on July 21. He hurt his left ankle sometime between his last game for Real Madrid and a Euro 2008 qualifier against Estonia.