TORONTO – With three matches over the next nine days, Toronto FC couldn’t have been hit by the injury bug at a worse time.
Ryan Nelsen will likely be without as many as five regulars as TFC look to close out the Montreal Impact in their Amway Canadian Championship semifinal second leg at Stade Saputo on Wednesday (7:30 pm ET, Sportsnet/TVA Sports in Canada).
And holding on to their 2-0 first-leg advantage won't be a walk in the park. With Richard Eckersley, Terry Dunfield and Darel Russell already out injured, Nelsen saw both midfielder Hogan Ephraim and forward Justin Braun leave the pitch in this past Saturday’s 2-1 league defeat to the New York Red Bulls.
“At the moment, I don’t think [Hogan will be available], as well as several others,” TFC's head coach told reporters on Tuesday. “They are all knocks. That’s the unfortunate thing about it. They all came in things like collisions. That is also a good sign, because they will all get cleared up pretty quickly.”
“[Dunfield] is out jogging now, which is a good start. I think he will progress every day and hopefully he can be out training pretty soon. Darel is kind of back and is doing light training. I think he should be available when we go out west. Ecks is still a bit off."
One player who could alleviate the TFC gaffer’s injury-related selection issues is recently acquired Designated Player Matías Laba. The 21-year-old Argentine has now taken part in two training sessions with his new club and he could make his Toronto FC debut on Wednesday against the Impact.
“Matías has had to go through all the medicals that they make you do. He has kind of just been doing all of that. Once he gets cleared, then we’ll be good to go,” Nelsen said. “He will travel [to Montreal] so he can start getting used to MLS flying and travel. Whether he can play will depend on if it all gets cleared or not. We’ll see.”
Regardless of whether or not Laba is cleared to play, TFC’s injury issues all but ensure that the Canadian Championship match will again have a distinctly Canadian feel to it from Toronto’s perspective, with young Canadian players Kyle Bekker, Jonathan Osorio, Ashtone Morgan, Emery Welshman and Doneil Henry all fit and part of the small pool of players available for selection by Nelsen.
“Montreal will be coming out all guns blazing,” Nelsen said. “They will play their strongest team possible and they will have their fans right behind them. I’m really confident in the guys we’ve got. They played really well in the first leg. We know that it will be a lot of tougher up there, but it will be a really good test for this young squad.”