Toronto FC to host AS Roma in friendly

TFC defender Richard Eckersley has been out for the past two months with a hamstring injury, but...

TFC defender Richard Eckersley has been out for the past two months with a hamstring injury, but could return in two weeks. (GETTY IMAGES)

KURTIS LARSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:18 PM ET

Toronto FC’s playing a mid-season friendly on Aug. 7 against Italian Serie A side AS Roma at BMO Field.

Get over it.

To the chagrin of a small, but boisterous number of loyal TFC supporters, the game’s a cash grab, a money-making scheme in an effort to pry attention away from the club’s painful rebuilding process.

Just like they did when the Reds battled Liverpool’s Reds at the Rogers Centre last year, passionate supporters — loyal since the beginning — have petitioned online to voice their displeasure about the exhibition.

“I don’t know how significant it is,” TFC general manager Kevin Payne said of the number of fans speaking out against the match. “But when I met with people through the winter I heard many, many times from people that they were looking for a significant international game and wanted to know why we hadn’t played more of them.

“I think it’s the right thing to do and it’s something that we’re going to continue to do.”

The principal reason for which might have something to do with Major League Soccer’s insufficient reserve league, which Payne said doesn’t provide an adequate opportunity for head coaches to evaluate non-first team talent.

Against Roma, draft picks like Kyle Bekker and Emery Welshman, as well as young players in Ashtone Morgan and Gale Agbossoumonde, will be evaluated against stingier opposition.

“It will be a fantastic experience (for our young players),” Payne said. “Far better than any experience they’d get in a reserve league game ... It will be a great opportunity for our technical staff to see how they respond to that.”

Fans’ concerns, however, are marked. With Toronto travelling to New England and hosting the Seattle Sounders a few days before and after, head coach Ryan Nelsen must rest important pieces while playing additional starters no more than 45 minutes.

It’s what Roma will likely do, too.

“We intend to play our first team,” Roma CEO Italo Zanzi said. “We are going to be taking this match very seriously and look forward to a very competitive environment.”

Short of a significant player suffering serious injury, the outrage that continues to trickle out of BMO Field’s south end has been an overreaction — and that’s putting it lightly.

In the end, it’s just another match — relax.

“It’s a great way to connect with members of our community who have a particular love with a part of the world,” Payne said.

Or, simply a way for TFC fans to watch unproven players go toe-to-toe with some of the best in the world.

If that doesn’t tickle your fancy, stay home.

A QUICK Q & A WITH KEVIN PAYNE

The Toronto Sun tracked down Toronto FC general manager Kevin Payne on Wednesday and spoke exclusively with the club’s head honcho about current players, future acquisitions and everything in-between. Check out some of the highlights below:

Q: Payne on extending defender Stevie Caldwell

A: “We certainly want to keep him and it’s a priority for us. He’s played extremely well but he’s also made others play extremely well. He’s provided the leadership that we were looking … I would think we’ll know in a few days.”

Q: Payne on bringing in Argentine striker Max Urruti

A: “We have stayed very closely in contact with him ... We expect to be able to add Urruti ... If we can get Urruti done then I’m hoping we can sign one full DP.”

Q: Who will that Designated Player be?

A: “(The DP) could be a guy that’s very well known, or another that’s not as well known, but very accomplished out of South America ... What we’re adding is very high quality.”

Q: Spanish winger Alvaro Rey is on trial at TFC. Payne said future moves will depend on how Rey performs in training.

A: “He’s just a player we are looking at who was out of contract. He came highly recommended from some scouts that we know.”

Q: Payne on additional signings this season

A: “We have the opportunity to get a player from Argentinos Juniors on a free loan, either now or in January … We have our choice of several (Argentinos Juniors) players and we’re trying to decide which one makes the most sense.”

TFC TRAINING NOTES

— Danny Koevermans scored two goals — his first since returning from an ACL injury — in a 5-0 dismantling of the Montreal Impact in reserve league action in Quebec on Wednesday, paving the way for his possible inclusion in Saturday’s starting XI.

— Koevermans was replaced on the hour mark during Wednesday match, the Dutchman’s longest cameo in close to a year.

— Richard Eckersley is said to be inching closer to a return after missing more than two months with a hamstring injury. The Englishman, however, didn’t feature in Wednesday’s reserve league match, meaning his inclusion on Saturday is in doubt.

— Danny Califf remains away from the club as he attends to personal/family matters in California. Other than that, Toronto FC general manager Kevin Payne would only say TFC “will have more to say about Danny relatively soon.”


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