It isn’t every day that an MLS squad sees its team captain depart the club just hours prior to kickoff.
But Toronto FC found themselves in that very position on Saturday, with the team releasing a statement prior to that evening’s match that Darren O’Dea had left the club and returned to Toronto to finalize a transfer.
Did O’Dea’s sudden departure play a role in the team’s 3-0 loss at Sporting Kansas City, arguably their poorest performance of the season? Head coach Ryan Nelsen steered clear of the idea that the move was a distraction as the match got away from the Reds at Sporting Park.
“I don’t know (if it played a role),” Nelsen told MLSsoccer.com. “Maybe, maybe not. But they are professional players and they have to do a job. That’s what they get paid to do, so I don’t think it would have had an impact.”
With Toronto missing four players due to Gold Cup duty and attacking midfielder Luis Silva traded to D.C. United earlier in the week for allocation money, the absence of O’Dea on Saturday left a shorthanded TFC squad just that much more undermanned.
“We had a bad day at the office and that is the first time that I have had to say that,” Nelsen said. “It’s the first time I have had to say that we got turned over. But some very good teams have come into this stadium and been turned over even worse than what we have.”
“We’re in a situation where we are few years back of Kansas City,” Nelsen added. “They took a couple of years of pain before they could produce a team like that today.”
When asked about the Silva trade earlier in the week, Nelsen predicted TFC might have to endure some short-term pain on their current road trip due to some moves that had to be made for the long-term benefit of the team.
Thus, while not letting his players off the hook for a poor collective performance, Nelsen did characterize Saturday’s disappointing defeat as part of the process that TFC need to endure in order to come out a genuine contender on the other side.
“It was a disappointing night for everybody and the players know it,” Nelsen said. “We have the standards that I have set and that they try to adhere to and we didn’t get there tonight. I think this is the first time we can all hold our hands up.”
“This is when you really measure the true character of guys," Nelsen added. "It is very easy when things are going well. It is when your backs are against the wall that you have to find out the steel of a player and a person. These are all tests. A day will come when you will see one of the best squads in the league, but you might remember days like this because we are going to have to have them to get to where we want to be.”