TFC loses Frei

KURTIS LARSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:41 PM ET

TORONTO - A shocking injury to Stefan Frei ended pre-match training at BMO Field on Friday, adding to TFC’s distress ahead of a critical portion of its schedule, beginning with the San Jose Earthquakes Saturday afternoon.

Making a routine tackle outside his box midway through practice, Frei’s cleats appeared to stick awkwardly into the rain-soaked surface, causing one of Toronto’s longest-tenured players to unleash a chilling scream.

“It’s a little bit disturbing,” Milos Kocic said as his goalkeeping partner crutched away from the stadium. “I want to think about the game and not the injury ... These are unfortunate things that happen.”

Frei was tended to by Toronto’s medical staff for 10 minutes as he lay on the field after suffering a serious lower-leg injury. The Swiss ’keeper departed for hospital in with an aircast on his left leg shortly after.

“Those things can happen in soccer and that’s why it’s important to have a big roster,” head coach Aron Winter said. “Stefan is a very good goalkeeper and we will have to wait ... It’s unlucky.”

Although he wasn’t slated to start, after a crushing injury to Torsten Frings last week, the Reds are left scrambling for a second-choice ’keeper while attempting to fill the defensive gap Frings’ absence presents.

If Friday’s training is an indication, the Reds will likely move back to a more traditional 4-3-3 with Miguel Aceval and Ty Harden centrally between Richard Eckersley and Ashtone Morgan. Not wanting to show his hand, Winter denied having come to a decision on his lineup.

“I’ve mixed everything and that’s your lineup,” Winter said, when asked if the starting 11 he used in training would roll over into this afternoon’s match. “We know a lot about San Jose. We know them from (their) last game against Houston and that they’ve made a few changes on the pitch. We know their strengths and weaknesses.”

Toronto will have its hands full with the league’s most consistent scorer over the last two seasons. San Jose’s Chris Wondolowski has scored 34 times in 58 appearances since 2010, including four goals at BMO Field.

With a number of weapons in the San Jose attack, today’s performance will go a long way in telling us how Toronto’s defensive third will hold up without its German anchor.

“Wondolowski’s a guy that finishes all the time,” said Ryan Johnson, who played alongside the 2010 Golden Boot winner for more than two years.

“He works on his finishing every day and he scores a lot of goals.”

Despite having a critical Champions League semifinal against Santos Laguna next Wednesday, Winter confirmed he wouldn’t rest players in preparation for the first leg.

With four of Toronto’s next five matches coming at home against weak opponents, early season points will be crucial when the Reds enter a more difficult portion of their schedule this summer.

“I’m not watching for Wednesday because each game is important,” Winter said. “(Today) is our opening (home) match of the season and we want to go for the victory.”

While Frei’s injury ended Friday’s session, many players returned to the field to complete individual workouts ahead of a critical test.

As noted by Winter, San Jose is a fraction of the club that finished two spots above Toronto a season ago. Along with the addition of Honduran international Victor Bernardez at the back, pesky striker Steven Lenhart has returned from a personal matter that ended his 2011 campaign.

Additionally, the Quakes acquired dangerous winger Marvin Chavez from FC Dallas during the off-season — a player who will likely act as a spark off San Jose’s bench.

Although Toronto’s bench boss said the club is only focused on the task ahead, after losing significant players and suffering a lopsided defeat in Seattle, the Reds have one game to get things right before entertaining a Mexican giant next week.

S.J. EARTHQUAKES AT TFC

Saturday, March 24, 1 p.m. ET

MARQUEE MATCHUP

Since 2010, there hasn’t been a more consistent forward in MLS than Wondolowski. A two-time MLS Best IX striker, the U.S. international grabbed the Golden Boot in 2010 and narrowly missed winning the award a season ago. With Torsten Frings set to miss the next few weeks, Aceval will have his chance to show why Toronto plucked him from South America earlier this year. In addition, as Toronto’s back line will already have its hands full with the blue collar Steven Lenhart, the Reds must find a new leader at the back. If Aceval can’t hold an already fledgling back line together, the Reds will be in for a long four weeks without their German captain.

WHERE'S DANNY K?

Toronto’s go-to scorer in 2012 has yet to open his account this season. Of most concern is the fact Danny Koevermans isn’t getting chances. Koevermans will meet a mountain of a man when he goes toe-to-toe with Victor Bernardez, a solid centreback who has 52 appearances for Honduras. If Toronto’s Designated Player doesn’t start scoring, what will happen when Ryan Johnson’s unbelievable run dries up?

QUICK HITS

* The Reds sent Nana Attakora, Alan Gordon and Jacob Peterson to San Jose for Ryan Johnson last July.

* Both clubs are missing players who are in CONCACAF’s Olympic qualifying tournament. Toronto’s Matt Stinson and Doneil Henry are away with Canada while San Jose’s Ike Opara is with the U.S.


Photos