All over for O'Brien

DEAN McNULTY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:28 AM ET

The player Toronto FC manager Mo Johnston calls "the best right foot in Major League Soccer" isn't at all happy with the diagnosis that surgery to repair a torn meniscus will finish him for the season.

Call Ronnie O'Brien a stubborn Irishman, but the star midfielder yesterday was mulling the prospect of returning to his spot in the TFC starting lineup before the season-ending game Oct. 20 against the New England Revolution at BMO Field.

"I don't know exactly when (the surgery) will be done," O'Brien said. "But it will take place in Toronto and the doctor said the procedure takes only about 15 minutes and I should be able to go home as soon as it's done."

The team's medical staff projected that O'Brien will need up to six weeks of recuperation from the surgery before he is allowed to practise with the team.

O'Brien has been TFC's best midfielder every time he is on the pitch, but the 28-year-old native of Bray, Ireland, has been on the injury list for eight of the team's 21 games this season.

He suffered the original injury in a friendly match against Canada's under-20 squad during pre-season training in Florida and aggravated it on the first day of practice in early April.

The final nail in the injured knee, however, came July 25 during another friendly against the English premiership side Aston Villa.

"I was running down the field and I heard a 'pop' in my knee and I knew that was it," O'Brien said at the time.

For Johnston, it is the latest chapter in a thick log of incidents that have sidelined some of his best players.

"We've lost Ronnie, Jeff (Cunningham) and Greg (Sutton) for the season," O'Brien said. "We as a team have to move on. So I won't talk about injuries any more."

What concerns Johnston now is getting TFC into a position to challenge for a wild-card berth in the playoffs.

"We are not that far off," Johnston said.

"And we are not giving up."

TFC hasn't scored in its past six games -- although three of those matches were 0-0 draws -- and Johnston knows his players must find their touch around the enemy goal.

"I went through six games without a goal in Kansas City and we scored in the seventh. Look, a lot of teams go through it. It's like everything else, the guys know what's ahead of them."

Johnston said that if it is incentives his players are looking for, they need look no further than their paycheques. He said there are no guaranteed contracts on the team beyond this season.

"There are always contracts to be played for," Johnston said.

"It's up to them to perform."

Johnston said he will start Danny Dichio -- who has been out with a hip flexor injury -- up front in tomorrow's game at BMO against DC United, likely with Colin Samuel.

Johnston will have Toronto native Andrea Lombardo, 20, on the bench if needed.

"Andrea and Colin will have to fight for that job," Johnston said.

Defender Marvell Wynne will return to the starting line-up after recovering from a groin pull.


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