Adrift in standings, Toronto FC focus on getting closer to full health

TORONTO – Well adrift of the pace in the Eastern Conference so far, getting healthy is a priority for Toronto FC as they aim to make up ground over the coming weeks and months.

With the injury list already lengthy, TFC were cautious with several players when they visited the New England Revolution on Saturday, holding Victor Vazquez (back) and Chris Mavinga (sports hernia) in reserve, while giving Gregory van der Wiel (ankle) the weekend off entirely.

All three should be ready to return come Friday's encounter with Orlando City SC (8 pm ET | TSN — Full TV & streaming info).

“It's a situation where we're trying to get our team back together without losing anybody else along the way,” said Greg Vanney on Tuesday.

In the case of van der Wiel, his absence was precautionary.

“We've been managing swelling around the Achilles for the whole season,” cautioned Vanney. “Then, three games in eight days, finishing with a game on turf, it becomes a risk. No different than Victor.”

Mavinga, meanwhile, made his return to the field from a sports hernia on the hour-mark. 

“He was out for a significant amount of time, had had a failed return,” explained Vanney. “Our goal was 20-30 minutes, get him going at game speed for a finite amount. He felt good coming out of it, that was a positive sign. Provided he gets through sessions appropriately, he's back into the fold.”

Add to that trio Eriq Zavaleta (quad strain) and Nick Hagglund (hamstring strain) as players nearing returns.

Adrift in standings, Toronto FC focus on getting closer to full health -

Eriq Zavaleta and Nick Hagglund have combined to play just 284 minutes in MLS this season | USA Today Sports Images

“They're progressing well,” said Vanney of the defenders. “Eriq is back into training; Nick is doing a lot of physical work and responding great. He'll be integrating back into training soon.”

But Vanney was cautious on whether they could be available come Orlando: “There is some chance. It'll be how much they progress over this week, how they respond to sessions. We'll see how the week goes... no speculation just yet.”

Further away are Justin Morrow (calf strain) and Nicolas Hasler (quad strain), however. And the waits for Drew Moor (quad strain) and Jozy Altidore (foot surgery) are even longer still.

“Morrow will start doing the physical work, start to get back into shape, closer to training,” said Vanney. “He's not quite there yet. Nico is physically progressing, hopefully within the next few days he'll be out on the field. He's feeling better, it's a matter of the next steps being taken.”

For Toronto to get back to where they think they deserve to be, getting healthy is just one of the steps in mind. From there, all else follows.

“One of our missions is to, as quickly as we can, get as whole as we can,” stated Vanney. “Get guys back into the fold, so that we can start to shift guys back into their natural positions, get relationships back together.

“We're 17 games into the season, travelled 30,000 miles, and we've had a limited selection over the course of it,” added Vanney. “We're trying to stop the bleeding, to put our group back together so that we can have proper selection, proper competition, proper preparation. As we lose one guy, it pushes that off to one more game. We've got to do it now.”