TORONTO – It only took three words for Toronto FC manager Paul Mariner to sum up how he’ll go about selecting his squad for Saturday’s friendly against Liverpool.
First, Mariner was asked whether he would entertain resting some of his starters considering TFC will conclude a brutal stretch of seven games in 17 days against the Reds (4 pm ET, Fox Soccer/Sportsnet).
“Yeah, definitely,” came the Englishman’s terse response.
The answer to whether he would give some lucky youngsters their first senior minutes was even snappier: a simple “yes” making his intent clear.
On Thursday during a phone conversation with MLSsoccer.com, Mariner was explicit about his plans, saying he planned on spreading available minutes liberally throughout the team, once again mentioning the young players that have recently found themselves on TFC’s bench.
“I’m probably going to try and dress two squads on Saturday,” Mariner said. “I would imagine if I give some of the younger lads the nod, they’ll be absolutely chomping at the bit to try and get into the lineup and give a good account of themselves. Every single game you play at the first-team level is an important game.”
And while Saturday’s friendly isn’t important in the traditional sense – i.e. no points are at stake – you can bet Toronto’s fringe players, especially reserves such as Matt Stinson, Aaron Maund, Oscar Cordon, Doneil Henry, Quillan Roberts and Keith Makubuya, won’t be taking any chance to impress lightly.
“It’s a great opportunity for some of the younger guys to show what they can do. Not just in a reserve game, but in a full-on first-team game with a big crowd,” midfielder Terry Dunfield said. “We’ll see what some of the young guys are made of tomorrow.”
One player who will not be available is newly acquired striker Eric Hassli, who came over from Vancouver on Friday evening in exchange for a 2014 first round SuperDraft pick and an international roster spot.
The trade, a clear attempt at replacing the production of Danny Koevermans, who was shifted to the Season Ending Injury list after suffering a torn left ACL last weekend in New England, should add to the increasingly thin depth at Mariner’s disposal.
Just not against Liverpool, a development not altogether surprising since Mariner has plenty more to worry about as the season ramps up even more in the coming months.
“The concern that I’ve got is the rest of the MLS season and the [CONCACAF Champions League],” Mariner said, “so I don’t think many of the starters will be playing 90 minutes. I’ll put it that way.”