TORONTO – After a tough 3-0 loss to Real Salt Lake over the weekend, Ryan Nelsen and Toronto FC regrouped Tuesday at a training session in Toronto before yet another road trip, this one a Saturday game against the Columbus Crew (6 pm ET; MLS Live).
But there were a few notable absences, particularly prized striker Jermain Defoe, who was taken off at the hour mark at Rio Tinto Stadium clutching the back of his leg. Worries of a hamstring injury weren’t quite put to bed by Nelsen.
“He’s getting a scan today,” Nelsen told reporters after Tuesday’s session. “I don’t want to say anything to lead you one way, so we’ll just have to wait for the scan to come back to tell you the truth. Hopefully it’s clear.”
Defoe’s injury status remains a question, but he’s not the only player dealing with injuries at the moment. Brazilian goalkeeper Júlio César suffered a knock as well when he landed on his knee, but it was nothing too serious according to Nelsen.
“It’s more of a contact one, so that we’ve got to deal with,” Nelsen said. “Hopefully with a bit of ice he’ll be fine.”
Defender Doneil Henry also missed training with an undisclosed injury and midfielder Jonathan Osorio remains sidelined with a hamstring issue of his own that all but guarantees he won’t see playing time against the Crew.
“We’ll see,” Nelsen said, when asked about Osorio returning to action on Saturday. “He’s very, very questionable.”
Midfielder Michael Bradley was also away with the US men’s national team as they prepare to take on Mexico in a Wednesday friendly as they ramp up for this summer’s FIFA World Cup. While absences and injuries are not ideal, Nelsen is playing things safe instead of rushing players back in.
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“It doesn’t matter if it’s Jermain or any player, I wouldn’t risk one game for the sake of losing them for many,” Nelsen said. “Whether it’s the goalkeeper or Jermain Defoe or anybody, we need to rest them just for small-term games.
“We’re going to lose these guys,” Nelsen continued, referring not only to injuries but also to the upcoming World Cup. “I’ve always said that the strength without our squad is not in our one through 11, but in our 12 through 18, 12 through 20. The most mature teams in the MLS who do it consistently year in and year out are the deepest. That’s one thing we have to get good at.”
Looking ahead to Columbus, Nelsen said the lesson learned in against RSL was an important one for his team.
“Every team is going to be up for it now,” Nelsen said. “We’ve got a bit of a target on our backs. We now understand, for real, that every single game we play we have to be up for.”