TORONTO – As one key starter prepares to make his return to Toronto FC’s line-up following a lengthy injury layoff, another one finds himself back in the infirmary.
Isn’t that just the way with this team?
Right fullback Richard Eckersley is fully fit again after being sidelined for three months with a hamstring injury and will likely get some playing time when the Reds visit Sporting Kansas City on Saturday and Chivas USA next Wednesday.
But forward and designated player Danny Koevermans, who has had injury problems of his own the past year, will miss anywhere from two to four weeks with a calf tear, coach Ryan Nelsen confirmed Thursday afternoon.
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“It’s not a bad (injury) but it’s one of those two-to-four week (injuries). It’s nothing major but it’s enough to keep him out for a bit,” Nelsen told reporters after the team’s practice.
Eckersley, 24, last saw action on April 6 against FC Dallas when he injured his hamstring while celebrating a late equalizing goal by teammate Darel Russell. After missing nine games, the Englishman re-aggravated the injury during practice, and his return was further delayed.
Now he’s healthy again, much to the delight of Nelsen.
“I’m always looking forward to get any good player back (from injury), especially him. I think Richard, more than anybody, is frothing at the mouth to get back. He’s a guy who never really gets injured, but he’s had an unfortunate one that’s niggled away,” Nelsen said.
Nelsen later added: “He has lot of energy. He presses very well. He’s comfortable going forward and he has a real intensity when he defends.”
Eckersley, who is under contract to TFC through the end of next season, admitted he was somewhat at fault for trying to come back too soon from the initial injury.
“I never really rested it the first time around. Obviously, I was trying to get back as soon as possible. We didn’t give it time to rest and repair itself,” Eckerlsey claimed.
He’s also learned a valuable lesson about not getting too excited with his goal celebrations.
“When other people score, I’m just going to relax a bit. But it was the 92nd minute (against Dallas) and emotions got the better of me. Things happen, and I can’t really do much about it,” Eckersley said.
With Eckersley available for duty again, Nelsen stated he would have no qualms about throwing the former Manchester United youth product back into the starting line-up for this two-game road trip. That would spell bad news for Ryan Richter, who has started on the right side of defence during Eckersley’s prolonged absence.
“Ecks knows the position really well, and to be honest, we are bare bones at the moment for these two away games,” Nelsen explained. “Any other guy you’d have reservations but he’s really a naturally fit guy.
“The physio says he’s fine, he feels he’s fine. At some point you have to roll the dice.”
If Eckersley does play this weekend, he’ll be part of a four-man defence that looked much different compared to the last time he played.
Captain Darren O’Dea has shifted from the middle to the left side, Scottish central defender Steven Caldwell has been signed by the club, and youngsters Doneil Henry and Gale Agbossoumonde have split time in the middle, with veteran Danny Califf having fallen out of favour.
Eckersley has played with Caldwell before, though. The two were teammates for a brief time during at English club Burnley before Eckersley joined TFC in 2011.
“Funny, it’s a small world, isn’t it? ... He left and I stayed at Burnley, and now we’re back together again. I suppose it’s fate,” Eckersley quipped.
Koevermans, 34, only recently returned to action after suffering a season-ending knee injury last July. The Dutchman suffered a minor calf tear in training this week, according to Nelsen.
“I feel really bad for Danny because he’s coming back from (an injury) and there’s nothing more frustrating than this.”
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Both Nelsen and general manager Kevin Payne have publically stated that the club is trying to bring in a few new attacking players during this summer's transfer window. With Luis Silva gone - he was traded to D.C. United earlier this week - and Koevermans now injured, TFC’s options up front are somewhat depleted.
“It doesn’t accelerate things further because it’s already in fifth gear. I don’t think we can go any faster to tell you the truth,” Nelsen said of the team’s search for new recruits.
And speaking of new recruits, the Globe and Mail recently reported that TFC would announce the signing of Uruguay forward Diego Forlan as its new designated player sometime this week.
Forlan, his agent and his current club, Brazilian outfit Internacional, have all refuted that any deal was in the works with TFC.
Payne declined to comment on the matter.
“We don’t talk about (transfer) offers we have made, and we definitely don’t talk publically about players who are under contract to another team,” Payne said Thursday.
Nelsen confirmed that forward Robert Earnshaw, the club’s top scorer with six goals this season, has recovered from a calf injury after sitting out the last two games and will be available to play against Kansas City.