March 20, 2012
TFC's Champions quest takes a hit
By KURTIS LARSON, QMI Agency
TORONTO - From Champions League exultation to complete dejection, supporters shouldn’t overreact following Tuesday’s news.
Toronto FC announced that Torsten Frings will miss 4-6 weeks with a hamstring injury he sustained in Seattle last weekend — a recovery timeline that will see him miss a pair of massive Champions League matches against Santos Laguna next week.
The loss is the most recent — and significant — of a long list of unfortunate circumstances that have plagued TFC’s back line since last May.
As Adrian Cann and Dicoy Williams continue to recover from knee injuries the duo sustained in 2011, the curious pre-season departure of Ecuadorian Geovanny Caicedo is suddenly significant, and under the microscope.
“It wasn’t (Caicedo’s) decision by any means,” said Earl Cochrane, the club’s director of team and player operations. “We didn’t really see what we expected to see in him and I don’t think he was in the environment he thought he was going to be in.”
Along with Miguel Aceval, the Reds thought they’d added a pair of significant South American pieces to shore up Major League Soccer’s worst back line this winter. Although Aceval’s addition has been mostly positive, Caicedo’s brief tenure is a black eye on an otherwise productive offseason.
“We still want to make decisions that are smart for us,” Cochrane added, making it clear that the Reds were far from panicked.
“The tendency when you lose someone as influential as Torsten is to go out and make a rash decision and we certainly don’t want to do that.”
Considering the German’s situation could have been much worse, the prognosis isn’t as bad as most think. Keeping in mind Cann is set to return within the next 2-3 weeks, the Reds have the talent to get results during what should be the weakest stretch of their domestic schedule.
While Frings’ injury all but rules out a place in the Champions League final, Toronto plays four of its next five league fixtures at home against clubs that sport a combined 1-4-2 record, including the expansion Montreal Impact at Olympic Stadium next month.
And after showing well in Seattle last weekend, the signing of journeyman Logan Emory gives the Reds a few options heading into the weekend.
In an effort to keep Toronto’s shape, head coach Aron Winter should look at moving Aceval centrally between Emory and Ty Harden. The Reds ended the first half in Seattle with Aceval sweeping between the club’s two central defenders after Frings’ exit — something that held off a strong Seattle attack before the half.
With Richard Eckersley and Ashtone Morgan resuming their roles on the flanks, while unmistakably weaker without the club’s captain, Toronto has the quality to get through the easiest portion of its domestic campaign.
But the club’s roster remains light. Doneil Henry and Matt Stinson are away with Canada’s Olympic team, making Toronto’s only remaining defender rookie Aron Maund, who struggled in place of Frings last Saturday.
“He is set to stay (in Nashville) right now,” Cochrane said, when asked whether TFC would look to recall Henry from Canada’s Olympic camp. “The plan isn’t to bring Doneil back.”
Or Stinson, which leaves Toronto with limited options in the defensive third.
With just three days to reshape a back five (or four) that has relied heavily on Frings since last summer, surviving this portion of the MLS schedule will tell us quite a bit about the validity of Toronto’s playoff aspirations in 2012.
THIS AND THAT
As hamstring issues are often reoccurring, the Reds must allow for proper recovery time to minimize the chances of Frings re-aggravating a nagging early-season strain. Pushing him to return early could lead to long-term issues that will keep him out of matches later in the season ... The Sun has learned that Efrain Burgos Jr. is set to join TFC in the coming days.
After training with the Reds throughout pre-season, sources close to the situation confirmed Tuesday that the Salvadoran midfielder has agreed to initial terms with the club ... After quickly falling out of favour in Toronto, South American sources report that Caicedo has agreed to terms with Deportivo Cuenca of the Ecuadorian top flight ... Michael Ballack’s agent confirmed to Goal.com that the German international will play in MLS this summer, but likely not for the New
York Red Bulls. “It seems that (New York’s GM) already made massive promises to Stephen Ireland in October. This is an unbelievable incident,” Ballack’s agent told Goal.com.
“Why would you go for a no-name player?”
OLYMPIC ROSTER SET
Head coach Tony Fonseca on Tuesday named 20 players to Canada’s under-23 national team roster that’s set to compete in this week’s CONCACAF Olympic qualifiers in Nashville.
Stinson and Henry headline a list of seven current MLS players that will compete in Group A alongside the U.S., Cuba and El Salvador.
The group’s top two finishers will meet Group B’s top two finishers in a semifinal playoff in Kansas City to determine the region’s two London berths.
Beginning Thursday against El Salvador, Canada will look to qualify for its first Olympics since 1984.