TFC defender Bloom out 4 to 6 weeks

Mark Bloom, left, in action for Toronto FC. (Chris Young/CP)

TORONTO – The injury problems continue to pile up for Toronto FC.

Coach Ryan Nelsen confirmed Friday that right back Mark Bloom is expected to be sidelined for four to six weeks with an MCL strain.

Also, Nelsen said Brazilian winger Jackson could miss anywhere from 10-14 days with an Achilles problem. Both players were subbed out in the second half of Wednesday’s 1-1 draw with the visiting Vancouver Whitecaps after picking up their respective injuries.

The good news for Bloom is that surgery will not be required—just rest.

Saturday programming alert: Watch the Houston Dynamo vs. Toronto FC live on Sportsnet 360 and Sportsnet World on July 19. Coverage begins at 9:00 pm ET. You can also watch live on Sportsnet Now. | TV schedule

“It’s a chance for him to get some calories into him. He needs to put on a bit of weight. He’s too skinny at the moment,” Nelsen quipped, speaking with reporters after Friday’s practice.

Jackson has two goals and one assist in 13 starts for Toronto this season, adding width and speed to the Reds’ attack. Bloom has been one of the team’s most consistent defenders, starting all 16 MLS games.

“Bloomy is a big [miss] because he has been absolutely fantastic for us,” veteran defender Bradley Orr said. “It’s been enjoyable watching the strides he’s made, and how much he’s stepped up to the plate and grown as a player throughout the season.”

Influential midfielder Michael Bradley said Toronto will miss Bloom’s consistency.

“We’ve really come to rely on him and what he gives us from that position,” Bradley stated.

The losses of Bloom and Jackson could not have come at a worse time for Toronto.

The Reds are already dealing with the loss of captain and central defender Steven Caldwell, who is expected to miss at least a month with a quad tear suffered in last weekend’s 4-2 home win over the Houston Dynamo.

The absences of Bloom and Caldwell leave Toronto rather thin at the back, especially with Ryan Richter on loan with the Ottawa Fury of the second-tier NASL, and midfielder Jeremy Hall (who can play in defence) away with the Wilmington Hammerheads of the USL-Pro League.

Nelsen said the team will consider recalling Richter from his loan stint in Ottawa, and that Hall will return to TFC after this weekend.

In the interim, look for Nelsen to start Orr and Doneil Henry in the centre of defence, and play rookie Nick Hagglund at right back.

The only healthy defender Toronto could bring off the bench is Canadian Ashtone Morgan, and he’s only made one league appearance this season, back on March 15. But Nelsen maintains TFC isn’t in crisis mode, and won’t rush out to make a trade or sign a player to add defensive depth.

Henry agreed: “For now, I think we have enough quality in the back line to hold out.”

With Caldwell and Bloom out, Nelsen will be looking to youngsters Hagglund and Henry to continue their strong play this season.

“We’re missing two starting defenders but when you bring in those two guys, you’re not really worried,” Nelsen said.

A central defender by trade, Hagglund looks forward to the challenge of playing at right back, a position he’s had to fill in throughout the season, including when Bloom left the game against Vancouver.

“I feel like the coach has shown confidence in me to put me in a spot that’s not my [natural position]. I feel bad for Mark—great guy, great player. I’m going to try to do my best Mark Bloom impression when I’m on the field,” Hagglund said.

TFC plays the Dynamo in Houston on Saturday night. The Reds then return home to host English Premier League club Tottenham in a friendly next Wednesday before taking on Sporting Kansas City in MLS play on July 26 at BMO Field.

Soccer Central podcast: SPORTSNET.CA’s Soccer Central podcast, hosted by John Molinaro and James Sharman, takes an in-depth look at the beautiful game and offers timely and thoughtful analysis on the sport’s biggest issues. To listen and subscribe to the podcast, CLICK HERE.