It's 'extreme hardship'

DEAN MCNULTY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:07 AM ET

The question of the day at BMO Field yesterday as Toronto FC was preparing for Saturday's match against Chivas USA was who would coach John Carver start at the back end of the pitch?

The answer was right out of the old Abbot and Costello bit: Who's at centre back, What's at left back and I don't know at right back.

"I've had some challenges in my life," Carver said. "But never have I faced a situation like I'm facing this week."

The situation Carver speaks of is that he has lost nine players to international duty as qualifying starts this week for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa leaving him with only one starting defender -- Marco Velez -- on his roster.

And TFC's pleas to Major League Soccer that the Saturday game be postponed have fallen on deaf ears.

According to Sun Media sources close to the situation, Chivas USA had sent word to the league that it would not object to such a postponement.

"This is what I consider a case of extreme hardship," Carver said. "Right now I'm calling around looking to get players on loan so I can fill out a game sheet."

Carver is also angry that TFC fans, who he said have been the best and most patient in MLS, will not get to see the best possible side on Saturday.

"I really hope that our fans will see the predicament we are in," he said. "It would be a great boost to have them support the lads that are going to be on the pitch."

Gone from the TFC starting 11 are: Greg Sutton and Jim Brennan (Canada), Marvell Wynne (USA), Carl Robinson (Wales), Julius James (Trinidad & Tobago), Amado Guevara (Honduras), Carlos Ruiz (Guatemala) and Tyrone Marshall (Jamaica).

Added to the exodus yesterday was reserve forward Jarrod Smith (New Zealand).

MLS is the lone top flight professional soccer league in the world that doesn't suspend play for World Cup qualifiers.

The MLS argument is that teams know two years in advance of these FIFA qualifying games and should be prepared.

Carver, however, is having none of that.

"If the object of the exercise (in MLS) is to make the game better in North America, then you have get players who are in demand from their national teams," he said. "Does it make any sense to field a team full of players nobody wants?"

Carver took a deep breath and admitted he didn't know what else to say.

"I'm usually never short of things to say but in this case I'm absolutely gobsmacked," he said.

The bad news didn't stop with MLS refusing to lend TFC a hand in the team's perilous situation.

Yesterday before the team took to BMO for a training session, midfielder Tyler Hemming asked for his outright release.

"I told him I thought he was letting his teammates down," Carver said. "But I'm not about to get down on my knees and beg anyone to stay who doesn't want to be here."

This is the second time Hemming, a native of London, Ont., has asked to be released from the team. Last season he left to try out with Swedish club Hammarby IF and when that didn't pan out he was welcomed back by TFC.


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