TORONTO – Hope springs eternal for Toronto FC, preferably sooner rather than later in both the literal and figurative sense.
Despite a challenging schedule in the opening weeks of their 2013 campaign, TFC have earned points in four of their six matches. Moving forward, head coach Ryan Nelsen hopes some genuine spring weather will enable his squad to continue their rebirth with a dose of health and vitality.
So far, Toronto have collected points while weathering the toll training on turf is putting on the team. Even though the first day of spring technically occurred almost a month ago, a constant stream of snow, cold temperatures and freezing rain in Toronto has forced Nelsen to conduct training sessions almost exclusively on artificial turf.
"It's hard when we have to train on artificial fields,” Nelsen told MLSsoccer.com. “We been training on artificial turf and we don't have any grass to play on. It's difficult on the players that we have to train on turf fields and don't have grass to play on. It's hard for them to get their passing right and the impact it has on the body is horrible."
With key players such as Richard Eckersley and Terry Dunfield already out of action because of injury, Toronto's list of walking wounded grew a bit larger on Saturday when defender Darel Russell left TFC's match against Philadelphia in the 74th minute because of a leg injury.
"[Russell] tweaked his hamstring,” Nelsen said. “We obviously wanted to get him off quickly as we didn't want to make it worse than it already was.”
Regardless of whether the injuries to Dunfield, Eckersley and Russell had anything to do with the amount of time TFC have been spending inside on turf, a quick perusal of the Reds' recent injury history has been dotted with players injured while plying their trade on artificial pitches.
Designated Player Danny Koevermans is not expected back until the summer following an ACL injury the big Dutchman suffered against the New England Revolution on the FieldTurf at Gillette Stadium last July.
TFC supporters are also likely to remember the fixture away to Seattle last March in which former captain Torsten Frings was hurt while playing on the turf at CenturyLink Field. That injury played a huge role in the poor start to the season that Toronto endured last year and it came on the heels of a season-ending injury to Stefan Frei suffered during a wet training game at BMO Field.
In addition to Dunfield, Eckersley and Russell, rookie forward Emery Welshman is also injured after picking up an ankle knock in indoor training.
Former Sporting Kansas City midfielder Júlio César, signed in the offseason, never made an appearance for TFC before his release at the end of last month following a large stretch of time in which the 34-year-old Brazilian was unable to stand up to the rigors of training.
Regardless of the genesis of his current players’ injuries, Nelsen was quick to admit he is keeping his fingers crossed that spring will finally arrive in Toronto sooner rather than later.
"We're at a real disadvantage at the moment not being able to get out onto the grass," he said. "So we're really praying for some sunny weather."