KISSIMMEE, Fla. – Toronto FC went through the paces on the training field on Friday at the ESPN Wide World Of Sports complex, but two of the men expected to lead the charge in 2013 were nowhere to be found.
Head coach Ryan Nelsen’s absence was expected, as the club’s head man returned to England to tie up some loose ends and “talk to some players.” Torsten Frings’ respective disappearance was not, and assistant coach Fran O’Leary said the midfielder and Designated Player flew back to Toronto early Friday morning to deal with personal matters.
“He’s just got a personal situation he wanted to deal with,” O’Leary said. “He had a chat with Ryan. Ryan was happy to [allow him to return to Toronto]. We’re all stuck down here, so anytime there’s a personal matter we’ll give the players freedom to take care of those things.”
Toronto head coach: Frings will be back for 2013 preseason
Frings had arthroscopic surgery in September after injuring his hip. The German played 26 minutes in Toronto’s opening game of the Disney Pro Soccer Classic against Columbus and participated in the team’s ensuing training sessions before returning to Ontario.
Along with Danny Koevermans, who is out until June while recovering from an ACL tear, TFC now face the distinct possibility of lining up on March 2 in Vancouver with neither of their Designated Players.
O’Leary didn’t seem overly concerned, though, and the club is still holding out hope that Frings could be ready in two weeks time.
“We’ll see how his rehab goes,” he said. “We kind of knew we were going to be in this position before we got here. We’ll jut continue evaluating. Hopefully, he’s ready for when we go to Vancouver.”
Armchair Analyst: Frings still TFC key, and that's terrifying
That attitude likely comes down to the fact that offseason signing Julio Cesar should be able to provide quality cover in the midfield should Frings' injury keep him out for a prolonged period.
Cesar has only played 45 preseason minutes himself and suffered a calf knock during Friday’s session, but O’Leary said the injury was minor and director of team and player operations Earl Cochrane was confident the Brazilian will help the side remedy some of their defensive failings from a year ago.
“The whole idea was that we needed to get a little bit more responsible, a little bit more angry – if you will – at the back,” Cochrane said. “He and Danny [Califf] both kind of help us in that department. … When we discussed this in the offseason, we thought he was a big reason why Kansas City was Kansas City. They were very good defensively, but he was a big part of that."
When asked whether the club could buy out Frings' contract, a possibility mooted by president and general manager Kevin Payne regarding Koevermans' status, Cochrane said there hadn't been any such conversations at this time.
Toronto play the Philadelphia Union on Saturday (3 pm ET, live stream on MLSsoccer.com) in their third runout in Florida.