TORONTO — Their levels of fame may be vastly different, but Toronto FC defender Richard Eckersley has something in common with arguably the most renowned player in MLS: Like David Beckham, he came up through Manchester United’s youth system.
The former Red Devils will meet for the first time on Saturday when TFC visit the LA Galaxy. But at 22, Eckersley is 14 years younger than Beckham. By the time he joined Manchester United, the former England captain had moved on to Real Madrid.
“When he was there, I was only a youngster,” said Eckersley, who is from Manchester suburb Salford. “We all know his capabilities and he was a role model for all footballers.”
As far as Eckersley is concerned, Beckham becomes just another opponent, and one to respect, particularly for his ability on set pieces.
“It’s all business,” Eckersley said after training at Downsview Park on Monday. “We just think about the game and just think about the points that we need.”
The need is there. TFC picked up just one point from their past two home fixtures and have 13 points from 14 matches.
Eckersley left this past Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Sporting Kansas City in the 76th minute because of a stomach ailment, which he says was a one-day thing. He was able to take part in full training on Monday.
The draw with SKC was not a thing of beauty, but it looked good after the 6-2 trouncing administered by the Philadelphia Union the week before. Eckersley and the Toronto defense needed a clean sheet and now must hope they can keep that up while the players up front can find a spark, which the return of Alan Gordon from injury could provide.
“I think from the start, really, coaches always want clean sheets,” Eckersley said. “That’s our main priority right now, and just build from there.”
Eckersley, who signed a four-year contract with Burnley in July of 2009, joined Toronto FC in mid-April on loan. He has been a part of loan deals at Plymouth Argyle, Bradford City and Bury.
He played for Toronto FC director of player development Paul Mariner at Plymouth Argyle when Mariner served as the club’s manager. So far, Eckersley has enjoyed the challenges of MLS.
“It’s been a great experience meeting new people,” he said. “You come up against some good players, strong athletes. I’ve been really impressed with it.”
Attakora sits out
Defender Nana Attakora did not train on Monday after leaving Saturday’s match in the final minutes with a thigh injury. Head coach Aron Winter said more will be known about Attakora’s condition later in the week. The young defender started Saturday after center back Adrian Cann suffered a torn ACL in training last week and is out for the season.
Gordon, Jacob Peterson and Gianluca Zavarise who have been out with injuries all trained on Monday and could provide some needed help up front.