TORONTO — When captain Torsten Frings was forced off the field in the opening game of the season last Saturday in Seattle, Toronto FC’s man in charge knew his team had suffered a devastating loss.
But what head coach Aron Winter did not know was how long his star would be sidelined, or how his team would respond in game action without him. They found out earlier this week that Frings will be gone at least four weeks, and they learned the hard way on Saturday what it might be like without him in the lineup.
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“We don’t have to forget that at this moment ...Torsten is not playing and organizing everything on the pitch,” Winter said following TFC’s 3-0 loss to the San Jose Earthquakes in their home opener at BMO Field. “We need someone to organize everything on the pitch and I know for sure to have Torsten in the squad is completely different than without him.”
Midfielder Julian de Guzman wore the captain’s armband in place of Frings on Saturday, but he couldn’t quite solve the mounting problems for Toronto. Striker Chris Wondolowski scored twice for San Jose and midfielder Shea Salinas added another goal as TFC’s backline struggled to keep up without the former German international pulling the strings.
They also struggled without the leadership of goalkeeper Stefan Frei, who suffered a broken left leg during the team’s practice session on Friday and will be out eight to 10 weeks. Backup Milos Kocic stepped in for Frei against San Jose, but he's now allowed six goals in two league games in net this season behind a TFC defense that's struggling.
“It’s definitely a lot different without Frings and Stefan injured,” de Guzman said. “The most important thing for us is to remain as a team. We have that togetherness, and I think the unity and that counts for a lot at moments like this. If we can hold each other up I think we’re bound to survive these tough moments.
“From this performance today, we definitely need to lift our heads up and get prepared for Wednesday’s game.”
Toronto FC return to CONCACAF Champions League action on March 28, when they’ll play the first leg of their semifinal series against Mexican side Santos Laguna at BMO Field.
The Reds return to league action on March 31 at home against the Columbus Crew.