TORONTO – With two wins from two games to open the Major League Soccer season, Toronto FC is off to its best start in franchise history.
The buzz surrounding the team is back in the city, and for good reason. Jermain Defoe has scored three goals, Michael Bradley is living up to his reputation as an elite midfielder, and the Reds are playing with a newfound confidence.
But not everything has been perfect, and trouble is brewing behind the scenes as TFC could lose influential midfielder Jackson to suspension for Saturday’s road game against Real Salt Lake.
Jackson elbowed D.C. United midfielder Davy Arnaud in the chest in an off-the-ball incident during TFC’s 1-0 win this past weekend. The Brazilian was yellow carded for the infraction, but coach Ryan Nelsen said the league is reviewing the incident and it could hand down supplemental disciplinary action against Jackson.
“They’re looking into it. We’ll probably hear back pretty soon. I would say, as a guess, he might get a suspension,” Nelsen told reporters after Tuesday’s practice.
“I felt really bad for him because he was getting pushed and shoved. If you watched it, Davy Arnaud was pushing his chest into (Jackson’s) back and aggravating him. (Jackson) shouldn’t have retaliated but I can understand it.”
Coincidentally, Salt Lake’s Alvaro Saborio also faces a suspension from the league for his bruising tackle on A.J. DeLaGarza of the L.A. Galaxy on the weekend. The Galaxy defender suffered an ankle injury on the play, and Saborio was issued a yellow card.
“That could have broken his leg. If Jackson gets suspended, you’d like to hope that a (player) who has nearly broken a guy’s leg is going to get suspended as well. You never know, though. I don’t make up the rules,” Nelsen said.
But Jackson said doesn’t expect to face further action from MLS.
“It was just something that happened in the spur of the moment. … I don’t think (I’ll be suspended), but I have to wait for the league to rule on it,” he said through a translator.
This isn’t the first time Jackson, who joined TFC this off-season, has run afoul of the rules in MLS.
In Toronto’s season-opening win in Seattle, the Brazilian clipped Sounders forward Clint Dempsey from behind with a rash tackle and avoided punishment. During his four seasons with FC Dallas from 2010 to 2013, Jackson accumulated 17 cautions and three red cards—compare that with the 11 goals and 13 assists he tallied for the Texas club.
He was also fined last year “for unprofessional conduct detrimental to the image of the league” after getting into an on-field dust-up with his former Dallas teammate David Ferreira.
Despite his track record at Dallas and the Arnaud incident, Nelsen doesn’t feel Jackson poses a disciplinary problem for TFC going forward.
“Not at all. Absolutely not at all. He just wants to win,” Nelsen offered. “He’ll learn from experience that there’s better ways to deal with it, but I’d rather have guys who are willing to win than who are little sheep out there.”
“There’s a fire in Jackson that I really like and appreciate. He brings a lot of energy to the club.”
Canadian international Issey Nakajima-Farran, currently without a team, continues to practise with TFC as the two sides negotiate over a contract.
“It should be done pretty soon,” Nelsen promised.
Midfielder Jeremy Hall and Canadian forward Jordan Hamilton (both recently sidelined by hamstring injuries) have returned to full training. Midfielder Jonathan Osorio is dealing with a minor hamstring problem but he assured reporters it isn’t serious.
Former Columbus Crew midfielder/defender Danny O’Rourke returned home to deal with family issues after training with TFC last week. Let go by Columbus at the end of last season, O’Rourke was working out with the Reds so that they can take a look at him. Nelsen said O’Rourke could return to Toronto for a trial once his family situation has been resolved.