|Coach Mo Johnston is still a little wary of lending players to Canada's national team. (Sun File/Michael Peake)
The last time Mo Johnston loaned a player off his Toronto FC roster to Canada's senior men's soccer side, he came back done for the season because of some shoddy decision-making about an injury.
TFC's starting goalkeeper, Greg Sutton, suffered a concussion during a practice in Miami prior to the start of the Gold Cup in May. Without a doctor accompanying the team, Sutton was sent back in a day later after seeing a local physician who cleared him to practice.
The result was post-concussion syndrome for the 6-foot-5 Sutton and a season without his No. 1 keeper for Johnston.
At the time Johnston vowed to think long and hard before allowing another of his players to suit up for the nationals.
Yesterday, however, Johnston softened his stance "in the interest of the game."
He said he would release several of his squad to play for Canada against Costa Rica in a friendly at BMO Field next Wednesday.
"They have asked for (goalkeeper) Kenny Stamatopoulos, Jimmy Brennan and Chris Pozniak," Johnston said.
But the TFC manager noted that because the game is being held at BMO, he's assured that each of his players will be looked after promptly and professionally should anything untoward happen.
"I will always protect my players," he said. "And what happened to Greg should not have been allowed to happen. But we also have to be part of growing the game here in Toronto and Canada."
One of Johnston's constant concerns is that too many good young players with potential to be great internationals get shuffled out of Canada because there is not a proper infrastructure to keep them playing here.
"Like I've said before, once we get our youth academy up and running it will provide the kind of top-level training that will keep kids at home rather than having to go to Europe to improve their game" he said.
One of those kids is 20-year-old David Edgar, of Kitchener, who is playing his centre-back position in England with Newcastle United this season.
Edgar first went to England as a nine-year-old soccer prodigy but in an interview with a British newspaper this past weekend, he said that TFC has changed the way soccer is viewed in his homeland.
"I got the chance to train with them when I was back home to get my fitness levels up for the Under-20s and it is a great setup," he said. "I support Toronto FC now for sure. I have a lot of friends who play for them and I keep in touch on the internet and on the phone.
"There are a lot of exciting things happening with Canadian soccer at the moment."
It's that kind of enthusiasm that Johnston hopes will spread among Canada's top young players.
"David was just coming off an injury and he saw how we did things," Johnston said. "He saw how our locker room was and how we did things."
The TFC manager said that Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. was fully committed to improving the quality and quantity of soccer in this country.
"We have great fans here," Johnston said. "And we are working on our base. We want the best Canadians in the world playing at home in the future. It's good for us and it's good for the game."