Jeremy Hall is nearing a return and could be pushing Ecks for minutes at Right Back.
It appears that both Jeremy Hall and Dicoy Williams will be available for selection in the coming weeks. For the first time this season Hall was left off the club's official injury list entirely. Williams continues to be listed as being out with right knee surgery recovery but has been increasing his work rate and involvement at training in recent weeks. It seems that Hall could be available any game now with Williams not being that far behind.
Their return raises the question of what in the world is Winter going to do with so many defenders. If Hall and Williams are back they join Ty Harden, Adrian Cann, Miguel Aceval, Aaron Maund, Logan Emory, Ashtone Morgan, Doneil Henry, and Richard Eckersley in what was already a crowed back line. All those bodies have failed to provide any sort of consistent results as Toronto continues to concede scoring chances and goals at an alarming rate. The return of Cann was supposed to provide stability to the defensive group but it has failed to do that so far.
Instead, what we have seen is Aron Winter making constant changes to the backline and almost never playing the same pairing in central defense for two games in a row. With Cann back the logical first choice pairing should be him and Aceval but when they have played together the issues are obvious. They seem to be struggling with the language barrier and a lack of understanding on the field which had led to missed assignments in vital areas. The other issue is that the pair has a complete and serious lack of pace. That lack of pace is only compounded when Winter decides to push them up field to play a high defensive line. We have seen it time and time again this season with a simple ball over the top to a pacey forward being the easiest way for teams to break TFC down.So now two more options are coming back. Will that mean Winter will just end up doing more tinkering or could things be solidified with the return of two solid options. Neither is likely to make an immediate impact, Williams has been out almost a year and Hall has not played since last season, but when they do return to full fitness they both have the skill to push for starting minutes.
Before Williams went down with his knee injury he had managed to form a solid partnership with Cann. Then both went down and things got really ugly at the back end for the team. In a few weeks they could both be available for selection again and hopefully Winter will at least give them a look again. There will be plenty of question marks around Williams after such a long layoff and if he will have lost any pace from the injury but if he returns strong pushing Aceval for minutes is not out of the question.
Williams would provide experience in the backline just like Cann and Aceval but he would be an upgrade in terms of his pace. That is where he could be the most useful if Winter wants to keep playing that high risk defensive line. He is no Usain Bolt or anything but the Jamaican international would be a start.
Then there is Hall who provides a number of different options. It is unclear where Winter will look to use him when he returns from his hernia surgery but most would expect him to be used primarily as a right back. That position makes more sense than using him as a holding midfield when you consider the fact that Winter sat Eckersley against Montreal. The English right back has been a bit off this season and seems to have fallen a bit out of favour with his coach.
The problem there is that Winter really has no option as a natural backup for Ecks. Against the Montreal Impact he ended up using Doneil Henry out of position. It was not a total disaster but there were some clear issues for the youngster in a position that he is not used. Hall would immediately become the natural choice to back up Ecks. He may even be able to press Ecks for that starting spot which may come as a bit of a surprise to many who felt the Englishman was an automatic in the starting XI.
The fact of the matter is that Hall is a proven MLS player and despite having a rough time in his short stay at FC Dallas he has done well in this league. Hall is only 23 now and has already made over 50 MLS appearances since being drafted by the New York Red Bulls. He was successful with the Red Bulls and then with the Portland Timbers after he was traded to the expansion side.
It seems that both players will be primed to push for starting minutes when they do return to full fitness. It makes for a crowded defensive group but at this point any experienced options that can provide solid minutes are a good thing for a club that has been more than a little porous.