TORONTO — For much of his inaugural season as an MLS head coach, Toronto FC’s Ryan Nelsen has had to lean heavily on 32-year-old striker Robert Earnshaw as practically his lone option up top due to TFC’s injury situation and his club's in-transition roster.
However, with the return of Designated Player Danny Koevermans from a long-term injury and the loan deal to bring New Zealand international Jeremy Brockie to Toronto, Nelsen finally has experienced and potent attacking options in addition to Earnshaw and midfielder Luis Silva, who has been playing as a secondary striker in recent weeks.
“It’s good that I have got some options now,” Nelsen told MLSsoccer.com.
With TFC delivering improved results in recent weeks, the challenge for Nelsen now is to figure out the right attacking mix for both his starting lineup and his options off the bench.
“It’s just different combinations,” Nelsen said “They all have a different skillset and a different mindset. It’s just about balancing them out. I thought both Jeremy and Danny were really good when they came on and brought a different dimension to the game in Houston [last weekend].”
Koevermans and Silva showed some good chemistry last season before the big Dutchman went down with season-ending ACL injury last summer. And in limited minutes thus far, Brockie has delivered the type of pugnacious physicality that has put pressure on opposition backlines and opened up space for Earnshaw. Brockie and Koevermans linked up in Houston and nearly created a late game-winning goal against the Dynamo in Toronto’s most recent fixture.
How Nelsen mixes and matches those four forwards in the coming weeks will likely go a long way toward determining how much TFC will be able to build on their recent improved form during the busy summer schedule.
Even though the 25-year-old Brockie is not expected to stay with Toronto long-term, he is looking forward to playing with both of Toronto’s veteran strikers in the coming weeks.
“Earnie is a very clever striker and he makes very good runs,” Brockie said. “Koevs is a big target man who holds the ball up and is strong and nice to work off. I’m enjoying my experience working with those two players and I’m learning a lot from them. The more I play and train with them the better the partnerships will get. Whether I start a game or come off the bench, I’m going to give 100 percent and get the results that we need for the team.”
Nelsen highlighted the versatile New Zealand native’s potential as a type of glue forward: “Brockie is willing to do any sort of job for you and we’d love to keep him longer."
As for Toronto’s leading goal scorer, Earnshaw sees Toronto’s improved depth at his position as major positive. That said, he doesn’t have any plans to lobby Nelsen to reduce his minutes as his club enters the dog days of summer.
“Obviously we want all the guys fit and we want to have good options within the team and all of the guys fighting for places,” Earnshaw said. “For me, I hate not playing and I hate coming off in matches. It doesn’t matter if I’m getting a cramp, I want to carry on and take a little minute and then get going again. I want to play as much as possible, but it’s great that we have a good team and a big squad now.”