TORONTO – With defensive midfielder Matias Laba now out of the lineup for 4-6 weeks with a broken toe, Toronto FC have lost a player who has arguably been their top performer over the last couple of months.
While he is undoubtedly frustrated to have lost his young Argentine Designated Player for a large chunk of the remainder of the season, TFC Head Coach Ryan Nelsen expressed his belief on Friday that midfielder Jeremy Hall is more than capable of doing the job in the center of the pitch in Laba’s absence.
“Jeremy Hall played there and played really well at the start of the season,” Nelsen told MLSsoccer.com. “He continued to play well even when Matias arrived in Toronto. So there are no problems there. He knows the system and he will fill in while we try and get Matty healed and ready.”
TFC’s first test without Laba out will come on Saturday away against a D.C. United team that are coming off two straight defeats and who have already lost once this year to TFC at RFK Stadium (7 pm ET, watch on MLS Live).
While Hall had not been starting in recent weeks due to Nelsen’s decision to go with Laba and Canadian international Jonathan Osorio as his two central midfielders, the 25-year-old University of Maryland product was an early-season surprise for TFC this year when he showed very well early on in the campaign after being converted from a right back to a defensive midfielder during preseason.
According to Nelsen, both Hall’s track record this year and his professional attitude have him feeling confident that he won’t see a significant drop off at the position in the coming weeks.
“It is the ones with the good attitudes who keep their heads up and work hard when they aren’t playing,” Nelsen said. “They are the ones you remember when things like this happen and Jeremy has been exactly like that.”
Asked about his readiness to fill the boots of a player who has been a key two-way force for TFC in recent weeks, Hall expressed confidence that both he and the other players on the TFC squad are more than capable of filling the void left by the Argentine’s injury.
“Matias has been a very good asset for the team and a great ball winner in the middle of the park who is very good technically as well,” Hall said. “It is a tough loss for the team, but, at the same time, guys are going to have to step up and show their worth to the coach and prove that they can contribute to the team.”
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“Ryan told me to be ready earlier in the week and I told him that I am ready,” Hall added. “I’ve played a lot and have started a lot of games for the team and I am comfortable in there [as a central midfielder]. I’m just going to have to do what I was doing at the beginning of the season and hopefully I can continue to do well in there.”
Thus, Hall isn’t only self assured that he will be able to step into the starting lineup and get the job done individually on Saturday, he is also confident that his team can engineer their third road victory of the season.
“We’ve proven that we can go over there and win games,” Hall said. “Aside from the Columbus match, we have been playing well and we had two wins in a row before being a bit unfortunate not to get a result against Seattle. We’re very confident in ourselves, but we know it is going to be a battle because D.C. is looking up right now.”