TFC counting on guys to step up without Giovinco, Hagglund

Toronto FC forward Sebastian Giovinco (10). (Peter Power/CP)

Toronto FC was back in training Tuesday ahead of its road game against the New York Red Bulls on Friday.

Here are some news and notes from today’s practice at the club’s training facility in Downsview.

MOVING ON WITHOUT GIOVINCO, HAGGLUND

TFC earned their sixth win in a row on Saturday when they beat Minnesota United FC 3-2 at BMO Field. It was, however, a costly victory.

Both forward Sebastian Giovinco and defender Nick Hagglund picked up injuries and had to be subbed out during the course of the game. On Monday, the club announced that Giovinco suffered a quad strain that should sideline him for up to three weeks. Hagglund was diagnosed with a torn MCL in his left knee, and is expected to miss the next two to three months.

But coach Greg Vanney was hardly cursing his luck when speaking to reporters after Tuesday’s practice, and he was even thankful that the injury to Hagglund wasn’t worse.

“It’s disappointing [losing Giovinco and Hagglund], but guys will have to step up, just like they did over the course of this last stretch,” Vanney said.

Indeed, if nothing else, TFC has demonstrated this season that it has great depth, and that it can win games even without key starters, as they currently sit atop the overall MLS standings. The Reds will have to continue to show that as their star forward and one of their top defenders are out injured.

Vanney was also quick to downplay suggestions that this franchise-record, six-game winning streak has been the team’s best run of form since he took over the coaching reins in August, 2014.

"It will be one of our goals, to keep the streak alive," Vanney said.

"While we're not trying to get ahead of ourselves, the goal is to keep this thing rolling and keep building on the last game, but understanding that you've got to make plays and you've got to deal with the situation in the moment and focus right in on that."

OSORIO OUT OF TRAINING

There is no update on Canadian midfielder Jonathan Osorio, who sat out the Minnesota game after being taken out of TFC’s 2-1 road win over the Columbus Crew game last Wednesday due to a racing heartbeat.

The team will put him on a heart monitor during Wednesday’s practice in order to get a better idea of his health situation and whether he can play in New York.

“Physically, he says he’s feeling better. Personally, my hope is that he was just feeling underneath the weather and something was causing his heart rate to pick up abnormally [in Columbus],” Vanney said.

“We’ll monitor him over the next [few] training sessions to see if there’s anything that stands out or whether [his heart rate] moves back into the normal range, in which case he’ll be good to go.”

BRADLEY THE IRON MAN

During the Reds’ recent stretch that saw them win five games over a 16-day period, Vanney did a very effective job of rotating his squad and giving most of his players some rest.

One notable exception was midfielder Michael Bradley. Not only did TFC’s captain play in all five matches during that gruelling run, but he’s also the only player on the roster to play every minute (1,080 in total) of all 12 games this season. Hagglund ranks a distant second in time played, with 989 minutes.

One of the reasons Bradley didn’t earn a break was because Vanney didn’t want to disrupt the continuity of the team.

“We try to keep guys who are in a rhythm out on the field without changing too much. Michael is obviously one of our fit and durable guys. Also, the position sometimes is unique in that [he’s] the sole defensive midfielder,” Vanney explained.

Vanney also pointed out that Bradley and forward Jozy Altidore will miss several matches this summer while away with the United States at the CONCACAF Gold Cup, sot they’re more inclined to push themselves to play every game they can for Toronto.

“It’s hard for both of them to sit out games when they’re here – they want to play, they want to help the team whenever possible. …. Would we do it the same exact same way in the future? We’ll see. [Bradley] kept things together when he was out there,” Vanney said.

QUICK LOOK AHEAD TO NEW YORK

New York currently sits fifth in the Eastern Conference with a 5-6-1 record and 16 points – three spots and nine points behind Toronto.

The Red Bulls are mired in a three-game losing streak, their latest setback coming on Sunday in a 3-1 loss at home versus the LA Galaxy. But as Vanney pointed out, they overcame a laboured start to the 2016 regular season to finish first place in the Eastern Conference.

Vanney also believes New York has lost its way a bit since the off-season trade that sent influential midfielder Dax McCarty to the Chicago Fire for allocation money.

“Sometimes you get into these little funks where things just aren’t clicking, or you lose track of something that was important that you were doing when you were getting results,” Vanney offered.

“I’m certain that [New York coach Jesse Marsch] will dig deep and find out what those things are. The continuity of their group is a little different this year – when you lose someone like Dax, he’s an important person not just because he’s a good player, but because he impacts the other guys around him.”

TFC and the Red Bulls split the season series in 2016, with one win apiece and a draw.

Toronto and New York will meet for the second and final time this season on Sept. 30 at BMO Field.

NOTE: I spoke at length with Jason Hernandez after Tuesday’s practice. Look for my feature story on the TFC defender later this week on Sportsnet.ca.

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