TORONTO – Eric Avila has patiently waited for his chance to play regular minutes this season.
Used mostly off the bench, Avila's performance has been spotty.
But things seemed to change last weekend against Chivas USA. Avila got for the final 19 minutes of Saturday’s 1-0 loss, and twice set up Ryan Johnson for clear-cut chances.
WATCH: Johnson sends Avila cross just wide
One pass led to Johnson’s shot that was cleared from the line by Heath Pearce. The other set up Johnson’s header that flew just wide of the right corner.
Avila has played in three of Toronto’s games for 105 minutes. His only start was the March 17 league opener, a 3-1 loss in Seattle in which he played 57 minutes.
“Of course, it’s always frustrating, I want to go out there and play and help the team out as much as possible and try to show what I’ve got,” Avila told MLSsoccer.com after training on Tuesday. “But it’s a patient game.”
Head coach and technical director Aron Winter was impressed by his effort Saturday, though.
“He was doing very well and has trained also very well,” Winter said.
Does that mean a return to the starting lineups could be in line for th 24-year-old against Chicago this coming Saturday (3:30 pm ET; NBC Sports Network)?
“It’s possible,” Winter said.
And it may be necessary. Toronto are looking to end a miserable, 0-5-0 run to start the regular season. Avila's ability to create chances could be part of the solution.
“One hundred per cent, I’m ready to go,” Avila said. “At this moment everyone needs to be ready, everyone is training to be a starter right now. We’re not an 0-5 team and we all know that.”
Avila also knows what it is like to wait his turn. He had to do that with FC Dallas, who traded him to Toronto last August 2 for forward Maicon Santos. After starting five of the 13 games he played for Dallas, totaling 515 minutes last season, he started eight of nine games for Toronto for a total of 774 minutes.
It's that kind of playing time he wants to earn again.
“It was like getting the taste and you want it back," Avila said. "And it’s what I want.”
If he keeps setting up the strikers the way he did against Chivas, it's most likely what he'll get as well.