TFC missing serious firepower

STEVEN SANDOR, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:44 PM ET

Three key members of Toronto FC will be taking the field at BMO Field in their home red uniforms on Labour Day weekend.

The problem for TFC: the team has a critical match with FC Dallas that weekend -- in Texas.

TFC's leading scorer, Dwayne De Rosario, central defender Nana Attakora and midfield general Julian de Guzman were called up to the national team for the Sept. 4 date against Peru at BMO Field and a Sept. 7 friendly against Honduras at Montreal's Stade Saputo.

All three will miss TFC's Sept. 4 date with FC Dallas, a team that's lost just twice so far this season and, unless they are all rested for the Honduras game, won't be able to see minutes in a key Eastern Conference match in Chicago Sept. 8.

While national coach Stephen Hart says that he feels for MLS clubs, as long as the league keeps playing on designated international dates, there is little he can do.

"To me, it's unfair to the national team and it's unfair to the clubs. It's not in my hands. I have international games to play."

TFC director of soccer Mo Johnston said he sees the big picture.

"I've spoken to Stephen (Hart) many times. I'm very supportive of the national program. It's important that Canadian soccer get better. We're here to help, we're not here to disrupt anything. Does it disrupt us, a little bit, yes. It's three of our best players. That's why you have a deep squad."

Hart also selected two other MLS players; Real Salt Lake's Will Johnson, and D.C. United defender Dejan Jakovic who, like the Reds, would miss two MLS games because of international duty.

But he made it clear that he could have chosen even more TFC players -- and felt he made some compromises to only take three.

"I didn't want to go in and take five players," he said.

Of the Reds who didn't get the call, central defender Adrian Cann is the most surprising. At the end of the season, Cann will compete with New York midfielder Joel Lindpere and Real Salt Lake striker Alvaro Saborio as newcomer of the year, the award that goes to first-year MLS players who aren't rookies.

There will no doubt be pressure from MLS clubs for the Canadian team not to use their players for the Sept. 7 game in Honduras, especially from TFC, which has the game in Chicago the next night.

But they have to get in line. Fifteen of the 20 players on the roster come from European sides, including Brampton native Paul Stalteri.

The Borussia Moenchengladbach defender could become the most-capped Canadian player in history in the course of the two friendlies.

Those European teams have games on the weekend following the Honduras game, and they'd like to see their players get on planes as well-rested as possible.

When Hart was asked how many of the European clubs had asked him to take it easy on their troops, he responded: "All."

It's a tough situation; Hart wants the team to get in quality playing time on a week designated by FIFA for international play, but none of the clubs actually want him to use any of their players. Such is the Catch-22 that comes with being the coach of a national program that's not a European or South American power.

"The European clubs have asked for the same sort of concessions."

With the major European leagues just starting their schedules, and many countries also playing Cup games at this time of year, Hart admitted a lot of "wheeling and dealing" is done to try to placate the clubs.

But, with Attakora suspended for this weekend's tilt against Real Salt Lake, there's a good chance he will miss TFC's next three games.

And that means coach Preki may have to turn to Nick Garcia or the oft-injured Ty Harden to try to plug the hole in the middle.

By the time the national-team players come back to TFC, the season could be in tatters.


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