TORONTO – Ever since Richard Eckersley joined Toronto FC back in April 2011, the fiery defender has shown TFC supporters that he’s willing to take on any task that will benefit his club. Sometimes to his own detriment.
Eckersley desire and passion just might have got the better of him at the tail end of Toronto’s 2-2 draw with FC Dallas this past weekend. How that could affect his status for Saturday’s visit to Philadelphia (4 pm ET, MLS Stream of the Week) is still unknown.
“Ecks said he felt his hamstring when he celebrated the second goal, which is an interesting one,” TFC head coach Ryan Nelsen told reporters on Tuesday. “He might have been sprinting to celebrate with [Darel Russell] rather than sprinting during the other 90 minutes. He is just cautionary at the moment and we are just keeping him out of training as he has a tight hamstring.”
MLS Stream of the Week: Philadelphia Union vs Toronto FC, Saturday, 4 pm ET
Russell and Justin Braun may have supplied the goals for Toronto in last Saturday’s thriller, but it was Eckersley that earned Man of the Match honors for keeping the ever-dangerous Kenny Cooper off the scoreboard.
As a natural wide defender, Eckersley was asked by former TFC head coach Paul Mariner to play a large part of last season as a central defender. He approached that role the same way he approaches his tackles – with 100 percent conviction.
However, the 24-year-old has not been shy admitting that he’s happy to be back playing as a fullback under Nelsen.
“I feel more comfortable at fullback because it is mostly one-on-one defending with an attacker,” Eckersley told MLSsoccer.com. “As a center half, you have to read balls and get your head on everything. I think of fullback as my position, so I am more comfortable there.”
The addition of veteran central defender Danny Califf over the offseason allowed Eckersley to switch back to his natural position and gave Toronto a center back duo in Califf and Darren O’Dea that may be the most experienced that the Reds have ever had.
While is he back defending out wide for Toronto this season, Eckersley is still showing his versatility as part of Toronto’s new-look back four. After starting TFC’s first three matches at right back, the natural right footer has played as a left back in Toronto’s last two fixtures without missing a beat.
“I’ve played [left fullback] before,” Eckersley said. “If the coach wants me to play on the left, I will play on the left.”