Toronto FC was back in training on Monday ahead of its home game against the Philadelphia Union later this week.
Here are some news and notes from the day’s practice.
Moor out injured for a couple of months
TFC coach Greg Vanney confirmed that veteran defender Drew Moor is dealing with a quad tear, and that he is expected to be sidelined for a couple of months.
Moor, 34, suffered the injury last Monday during the team’s training session in Mexico ahead of the second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League final against Chivas de Guadalajara. Moor didn’t play in last Wednesday’s contest against Chivas, and he sat out Saturday’s 2-2 draw at home against the Chicago Fire in MLS play.
“I don’t know the exact timeline [of his return]. It’s more along the lines of months than weeks because it’s a fairly significant tear,” Vanney revealed.
“It was a moment in training that you never in your lifetime believe he was going to be out for a couple of months given the situation. It was a 10-yard pass that led to him pulling up.”
Vanney later added: “I don’t know exactly [how long he’ll be out]. I would put it at the two- to three-month range.”
With Moor gone, Jason Hernandez trying to get back to full fitness, Chris Mavinga coming back from injury, and Nick Hagglund out with a long-term hamstring issue, Vanney is short of options in the centre of defence.
For TFC’s last two games, Vanney has used captain and central midfielder Michael Bradley, as well as right fullback Gregory van der Wiel in the middle of defence. Vanney has been impressed with how Bradley has adopted to his new position, so look for TFC’s coach to keep going with the Bradley-van der Wiel duo in central defence for the foreseeable future.
“As a midfielder, you understand the importance of the depth of the back line and making sure you’re not too deep as a back line, so that you can close up that midfield space, which helps the players in front of you to get pressure on the ball. … He’s done a fantastic job of helping to move the line, to keep the line a little bit tighter,” Vanney said of Bradley.
Altidore out, and other injury updates
Forward Jozy Altidore picked up “a mild hamstring strain” in the second leg against Chivas last week and had to be subbed off late in the game. He didn’t play on Saturday and is expected to be out for a couple weeks, Vanney confirmed.
Defender Chris Mavinga (lower body) and fullback Justin Morrow (calf) have missed a slew of games, both in MLS and CONACAF, since picking up injuries in the second leg of TFC’s Champions League quarterfinal against Mexican side Tigres on March 7. Both could be available again soon for TFC.
“[Morrow] is going to have an MRI today, and we’ll see where he’s at. He’s feeling better … He’s close, but we’re just trying to get to him to where he’s out of any danger zone. [Mavinga] is on the verge of being ready to go,” Vanney explained.
Defender Eriq Zavaleta, who missed last week’s game in Mexico and Saturday’s contest with a minor quad muscle issue, is within a week or two away from coming back, Vanney said.
Defender Nick Hagglund continues to be sidelined by a long-term hamstring injury. Hagglund was expected to be out for up to six weeks when he picked up the injury in early April. Vanney said Hagglund is making progress, and he could start to do a bit of work in training this week, although he is still a couple of weeks away from returning to action.
Vazquez on the mend
Some good news on the injury front is the condition of influential midfielder Victor Vazquez.
Vazquez has been troubled by a nerve in his back since being subbed out of Toronto’s season-opening loss to Columbus on March 3. He’s missed a bunch of games since, but the Spanish playmaker did start in the second leg against Chivas last week. He also started against Chicago on the weekend, and scored TFC’s second goal of the afternoon.
“He’s making progress, for sure. Whether [the issue is] completely gone, I don’t necessarily have the answer. I’m sure we’re trying to get him up to maximum fitness, and strength,” Vanney said.
“He’s definitely to a point where he can manage [the discomfort] and still be able to play and perform.”
More VAR discussions
Vanney was fuming after Saturday’s 2-2 draw against the Chicago Fire.
His big problem was with Chicago’s first goal by Bastian Schweinsteiger, which he felt was offside. The play was not reviewed by referee Alan Kelly after he was relayed a message in his earpiece by the video assistant referee (VAR) team upstairs in the booth that he might want to review the play himself.
Vanney confirmed Monday that TFC will have a discussion with the Professional Referee Organization later in the day to voice their concerns about how VAR was used in the Chicago match.
“We’re scheduled to have a conversation where we fall out on all of that,” Vanney confirmed
The pitch at BMO Field
The condition of the pitch at BMO Field for Saturday’s match was less than ideal.
To be fair, Toronto has had an unusually wet, long and cold winter. Also, the Reds have played a lot of home games thus far, starting with the second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League series against the Colorado Rapids on Feb. 27.
That being said, captain Michael Bradley wasn’t impressed with the state of the pitch, complaining to reporters after the game that it was “choppy.”
Vanney revealed that a new grass pitch at BMO Field will be put down in early June. Until then, TFC just have to deal with the situation and hope the grounds crew team can improve the pitch.
“The challenge of it is that our team is built on players of precision. We like to pass, we like to keep the ball on the floor. Guys like Sebastian [Giovinco], Victor [Vazquez], Ager [Aketxe], Auro… Those are guys of precision; those aren’t guys who are battering rams and deal with a lot of things in the air,” Vanney said.
“[The field] gets more chewed up as the game goes on, which leads to balls being miss-hit because they are popping up. That’s the frustration.”
Looking ahead to Philadelphia
Toronto’s next game is Friday against the Philadelphia Union at BMO Field. The teams met twice in 2017, battling to a 2-2 draw early in the season, and the Reds earning a 3-0 win at home in August.
The Union feature midfielder Warren Creavalle who played for Toronto from 2014-15. TFC traded Creavalle to Philly for a second-round pick in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft. The Reds then turned around and dealt that pick to the Seattle Sounders in exchange for defender Eriq Zavaleta.
Philadelphia boasts a 2-3-2 record this season, and is coming off of a 3-2 home win over D.C. United.
Two players TFC will have to keep tabs on are forward C.J Sapong and Bosnian midfielder Haris Medunjanin.
“C.J. Sapong up top can be a handful. He’s a big guy who plays big, and is physical and moves around… Medunjanin is a fantastic passer from the defensive midfield position, and if he has a lot of time on the ball he’ll dictate the game and control it,” Vanney warned.