TORONTO – It's by no means an ideal situation, but Toronto FC's recent spate of injuries have given head coach Paul Mariner a head start in assessing what he has for next season.
And he said he feels positive about the future despite a league record of 5-16-6 in 2012.
“Unfortunately for us, we’re having to use a lot of our players who maybe wouldn’t see quite so much time this year,” Mariner told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday. “We’re already looking at the boys very, very hard. I don’t think we’re that far off, I really don’t.”
TFC’s injury list got longer on Wednesday when it was announced that midfielder and team captain Torsten Frings will miss the rest of the season to have arthroscopic surgery on his hip. He is expected to be ready for preseason training next year.
Frings joins a long-term injury list that includes two other previously key contributors in goalkeeper Stefan Frei and striker Danny Koevermans.
And for last Saturday’s 2-1 loss at Sporting Kansas City Toronto were without Frings and a host of other players, including Eric Hassli, Reggie Lambe, Ty Harden, Ashtone Morgan and Doneil Henry.
“It’s quite a decent group of players, you know,” Mariner said.
The loss in Kansas City left the Reds winless in their past seven games, with five losses and two draws. They also face a difficult task in the CONCACAF Champions League after losing 3-1 on Aug. 28 to Santos Laguna of Mexico on two late goals. The Reds are 1-1-0 and have two away games left in the group stage.
“I’m not really despondent,” Mariner said. “We’re not that far away. We’ve run Kansas [City], and Houston and Santos and Kansas [City] again very close. If you look at the team we put out there the other day it’s a developing group. We haven’t played together much, only a handful of games.”
And despite the losses, Mariner likes the attitude he has seen.
“The one thing I’ve gleaned from this group is that they really want to be successful,” he said. “And that it really hurts them being in the position that they’re in and what they want to do is put it right. They want to get up the league.”
If that’s the goal for 2012, then time is running out. Toronto have seven league games left, the next one coming on Sept. 12 against the Chicago Fire at BMO Field.
But 2013’s not all that far away.