With the odds of finally reaching the postseason growing longer with each week, Toronto FC have called in reinforcements.
The club announced Wednesday that it has signed two new Designated Players to help right the ship in head coach Aron Winter’s first year at the helm, including longtime German national team defensive midfielder Torsten Frings.
Frings — who is best known in American soccer circles as the defender who escaped a hand ball on the goal line during Germany’s 1-0 win over the United States during the 2002 World Cup quarterfinals in South Korea — earned 79 caps with Die Mannschaft from 2001-09, and has played with Bundesliga side Werder Bremen since 2005.
The club also announced the signing of Dutch striker Danny Koevermans, who has scored 34 goals in 91 appearances with PSV Eindhoven since 2007 and also spent prolific seasons in the Netherlands with Sparta Rotterdam and AZ Alkmaar.
The two players are not eligible to play for Toronto FC until after July 15. They'll be eligible to play against FC Dallas on July 20.
Frings, 34, and Koevermans, 32, become the first big-name signings under the new regime of Winter and technical director Paul Mariner, and join Canadian international Julian de Guzman as the three DPs on the team’s roster.
The team’s other foray into the DP market came via the short-lived experiment with Spanish striker Mista, who appeared in just nine league games but failed to register a league goal in 2010. The team cut ties with Mista after last season, punctuating a frustrating turn for the club after they missed the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season since their inception in 2007.
Frings played in both the 2002 and 2006 World Cups for Germany, and found himself in the center of the drama during the Germans' ultimately unsuccessful bid for the 2002 title. With Germany leading the US 1-0 on a first-half goal from Michael Ballack, Frings appeared to deflect a shot by current LA Galaxy defender Gregg Berhalter off the goal line with his hand, keeping the Americans off the scoreboard in what is still the only US appearance in the World Cup quarterfinals.
Frings — who scored on a 30-yard rocket for the Germans during a 4-2 over Costa Rica during group play during the 2006 World Cup — was also reportedly being pursued by Scottish side Rangers and English Championship side Leeds United. Former German national team coach Jürgen Klinsmann coached Frings during the 2006 World Cup before consulting Toronto FC's rebuilding process ahead of the 2011 season.
The addition of Frings should shore up a defensive group in Toronto that has been under siege most of the season. TFC have allowed a league-worst 29 goals this season — including a 6-2 loss to the Philadelphia Union on May 28 — and lost perennial starter and team leader Adrian Cann to a torn ACL in his right knee in late May.
They’ve even been forced to start teenager and TFC Academy product Doneil Henry in recent weeks, leaving Winter to lament the accelerated responsibility placed on his young players after a 3-1 loss to Real Salt Lake last Saturday.
“It makes it difficult,” Winter said. “Because if you’ve got everybody fit then you should get another result and we should also get more points. But you have to do it with the players that you have now. The window is going to be open, and I’m going to get some players.”
Koevermans, meanwhile, adds instant punch to an offense that has scored just 13 goals this season, the second-fewest in the league.
After dealing 2010 leading scorer Dwayne De Rosario to New York for defensive midfielder Tony Tchani in early April, the Reds have scored more than one goal in just four of their last 18 matches. They won only one of those, against the Houston Dynamo on May 7, which was also their last win in league play.
The offensive group has also battled injuries — most notably to forward Alan Gordon — but Koevermans should be an automatic starter on the front line. The big center forward scored one goal in 14 Eredivisie appearances last season, but scored 11 times in 22 matches the year before. He has four caps with the Dutch national team.
TFC (2-7-9) are currently in ninth place in the Eastern Conference, and are winless in their last 11 league games. They face Vancouver in league play at BMO Field on Wednesday (7:30 pm, watch LIVE online) and will take on the Whitecaps again on Saturday in a rescheduled second leg of the Nutrilite Canadian Championship.