TFC hopes to end slump

Maurice Edu (Ernest Doroszuk, Toronto Sun)

Maurice Edu (Ernest Doroszuk, Toronto Sun)

DEAN MCNULTY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 12:44 PM ET

The most recent time Toronto FC celebrated a goal against Major League Soccer competition was exactly six weeks and six games ago today, when the team came away with a 1-1 draw at Chicago on July 7.

Since rookie Maurice Edu scored in that game, TFC has seen its most potent offensive players fall off the roster with an incredible string of injuries.

Striker Jeff Cunningham went down with an abdominal tear. Midfielder Ronnie O'Brien suffered a deep knee bruise. Striker Danny Dichio fell victim to a hip flexor while the team's top two defenders who get the ball up to the scorers -- Marvel Wynne and Jim Brennan -- were hobbled with a pulled hamstring and badly battered ribs, respectively.

It was not a pretty sight when manager Mo Johnston looked down his bench and saw mostly reserves and teenagers available to him over that time period.

Yesterday at BMO Field, however, there was a glimmer of hope that at least some of those walking wounded would soon be back in their regular roles.

Brennan has played recently through a lot of pain as a reserve, but will start in today's home match against Chivas USA.

Cunningham has gone through two complete practices this week without pain and likely will also start today at BMO.

Wynne took part in a full workout on Thursday but rested for the most part yesterday, although Johnston hinted he may be ready to come off the bench.

Dichio -- the team's most imposing offensive threat and crowd favourite -- also came through a full practice on hursday but was experiencing some discomfort yesterday as a result. He is now listed as day-to-day.

O'Brien is nowhere near coming back and is still seeking medical advice on whether he may need major surgery on his damaged knee.

"So far, Cunningham isn't experiencing any pain, so that looks promising," Johnston said. "Hopefully, we can get Danny sitting on the bench, as well. He feels he can play and that is real encouraging."

The TFC boss said he sat down with Cunningham to let him know how big a part of the team he is.

"I told him we need his offence," Johnston said. "I also told him to go have some fun on the pitch. We will see how it goes from there."

Johnston defended the team's lack of goals, saying that there isn't an MLS team out there that could score without its three or four top options.

"When Cunningham and Dichio and O'Brien are in the lineup, there are goals there," he said.

All you have to do is check the stats to see just how important O'Brien is to the team's offence. To put it in hockey terms O'Brien is a plus-5, the only TFC player on the plus side of the ledger.

At the same time, Johnston won't apologize for going with youngsters such as 20-year-old Andrea Lombardo up front.

"Sure, it's tough on the younger kids," he said. "But we are going to keep throwing them in, giving them valuable playing minutes."

Brennan, for one, feels the team is ready to break out.

"There are all kinds of positive signs," the team captain said. "I really feel positive about our chances against Chivas."


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