Toronto FC was back in training on Monday ahead of a busy week that will see the Reds play two games in four days.
Here are some news and notes from today’s practice.
2 GAMES IN 4 DAYS; 7 ABSENCES FOR WEDNESDAY
After having last week off, TFC will be back at it in full force this week, with a visit to New York City FC on Wednesday and a home date with the Colorado Rapids on Saturday.
Matches away to NYCFC are always tricky due to the calibre of the opposition and the small dimensions of the pitch. This trip to Yankee Stadium is especially challenging, as the Reds will be without seven players, including four starters. Justin Morrow, Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore are away with the United States at the CONCACAF Gold Cup. TFC will also be missing Canadians Tosaint Ricketts and Jonathan Osorio, and Panama’s Armando Cooper.
On top of that, veteran defender Steven Beitashour remains sidelined due to injury (more on him in a second). Toronto did receive some relief on Sunday when Raheem Edwards was dropped from Canada’s Gold Cup roster, making him available for Wednesday’s contest.
This will be a serious test of the Reds’ vaunted depth. Coach Greg Vanney believes he still has enough talent on hand, and remains reassured by the quality of the players he does have available to him for Wednesday’s match.
“I feel great about the group we have going in [to New York],” he said. “We have a clear picture of what we want this game to look like.
“We have good experience, we have some legs and guys who can run. We have guys who can finish, and we have our back line more or less intact, so we are comfortable with going in there and playing for three points.”
According to Vanney, it was strictly Canadian coach Octavio Zambrano’s decision to cut Edwards from the roster, and that TFC didn’t put any pressure on him to do so. Gold Cup teams are allowed to make six roster changes prior to the start of the knockout round. The addition of forward Cyle Larin meant a spot had to be opened up to accommodate him, and Edwards lost out.
“It’s important for us [to have Edwards back]. We’re scrounging up guys to try to get 16 field players. It’s good to have him back for obvious reasons,” Vanney said.
If the U.S., Canada or Panama lose their respective midweek quarter-finals at the Gold Cup, TFC should get their players back in time for the Colorado game.
STILL NO RETURN DATE FOR BEITASHOUR
Beitashour was recently released from the hospital, and he remains on the sidelines after undergoing surgery on an injured pancreas. Beitashour suffered the blow in a collision with Montreal Impact defender Kyle Fisher in the Canadian Championship final on June 27, and he missed the Reds’ next two MLS games.
Vanney confirmed there’s still no timeline on Beitashour’s return to action.
“He visits the doctor here again pretty soon, and then we should have a good idea of what our plan is,” Vanney said.
Beitashour, 30, has been a mainstay for TFC ever since coming over in a trade with the Vancouver Whitecaps prior to the 2016 season, starting in 42 regular season games and six playoff matches.
HAGGLUND CLOSE TO RETURNING
Nick Hagglund, 24, returned to full training on Monday, and Vanney confirmed that he is close to being able to play again – although a return for Wednesday’s game is unlikely.
The young defender has been out since mid-May with a torn MCL.
“He’s getting close [to coming back]. I’m not quite sure if it’s for Wednesday, but he’s getting close here, hopefully in the next couple of games,” Vanney said.
Vanney said that the team has no other major injury concerns at this time.
DECISION COMING ON BRAZILIAN RAUL
Vanney confirmed that Raul, a 20-year-old defender with Brazilian club Gremio, remains on trial with TFC. Vanney also said that he’ll continue to look at Raul over the next few days before making a decision about possibly adding him to the roster.
The uncertainty over Beitashour’s long-term status led to TFC offering a trial to Raul, who has played mostly for Gremio’s reserve team. He also has turned out for Brazil’s under-20 side.
If the trial is successful, Toronto is expected to sign Raul to a loan deal. MLS club have until the roster freeze date of Sept. 15 to make player additions.
LOOKING AHEAD TO NYCFC
The game against NYCFC marks the Reds’ return to Yankee Stadium for the first time since earning a 5-0 win over NYCFC in the second leg of the last season’s Eastern Conference semifinal series.
David Villa, last season’s league MVP, is having another fine campaign for NYCFC, with 12 goals in 18 games this year. Midfielder Jack Harrison has also been a major offensive contributor, with eight goals in 19 appearances.
“We’ve had a challenge dealing with some good players before, and we’ll continue to do so [on Wednesday],” TFC defender Eriq Zavaleta said. “Collectively as a group, we all have to do a good job of paying attention to where they are at all times and minimizing the chances that they can get because they’ll take advantage of them.”
Lichtenstein midfielder Nicolas Hasler, who signed with Toronto as a free agent last week, will be available for selection on Wednesday.
TFC and New York will meet for the second and final time of the regular season on July 30 at BMO Field.