TORONTO — A little more than a week ago, Toronto FC head coach Ryan Nelsen was expressing his delight at the fact that his entire squad with the exception of striker Danny Koevermans was fully fit and looking resplendent in training sessions.
Fast forward a week and TFC are facing a situation in which they will possibly have to play away against a tough Philadelphia Union squad on Saturday (4 pm ET, MLS Stream of the Week) without key starters Terry Dunfield and Richard Eckersley.
While Eckersley is expected to be a game-time decision, the gritty and experienced Dunfield definitely will not be available to play against John Hackworth’s squad.
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“Terry is out,” TFC head coach Ryan Nelsen told MLSsoccer.com. “Emery [Welshman] is out as well. Richard is kind of touch and go. We’ll have to see with him. He is a quick healer, so hopefully with fingers crossed he’ll be able to go.
“This is what happens in sport. You get injuries and sicknesses. When opportunity arises, you have to take it,” Nelsen added. “To be fair, our guys have come out and have really taken their opportunities, which is really pleasing.”
One player who has genuinely made the most of his opportunities off the bench in Toronto’s last two games and who looks primed to get a start in the TFC midfield in place of Dunfield is midfielder Luis Silva.
The 24-year-old attacking threat came on in the second half against the LA Galaxy two weeks ago and showed some beautiful technical proficiency in setting up Toronto’s second goal of the game. He had a similar effect last weekend in a comeback draw against Dallas in which TFC looked lackluster and ineffective until he was inserted in the game at halftime.
While Toronto are certain to miss the steel that Dunfield brings, especially in a fixture played at PPL Park, it is not a stretch to say that two of TFC’s best runs of play so far have come with Silva functioning as the fulcrum for the Reds offense. In that sense, Silva in the starting XI could be just what the doctor ordered as Toronto look to earn their first win away from home.
“In both games, he has been really good when he has come on,” Nelsen said. “It was obvious to see. He was brave on the ball and he wanted the ball.”