In an unsurprising announcement, Toronto FC made it known on Wednesday that Torsten Frings will be missing the rest of the season, requiring arthroscopic surgery on his hip. That caps off a bad week for Frings, publicly blamed by Paul Mariner for Santos Laguna's winning goal, then left out of Saturday's game in Kansas City with the news that he's gone back to Germany to check out the hip, and now this confirmation that it will require surgery.
I'd say it's bad news for the 2012 season, but really, that ship set sail a long time ago. I'm no doctor, but I imagine this is the sort of wear and tear that comes with age, and if push came to shove, if TFC were in the playoff race, he'd be able to play through the pain and put off any necessary surgery to the off season. Given the situation, there's really no sense in pushing things in that manner, so operating now to avoid making it worse and to give more recuperation time is probably for the best as far as Frings is concerned. For TFC, well now they get to give Aaron Maund an extended audition in the remaining 9 games of preseason 2013.
Frings is of course still under contract for 2013 and it was explained that this gives him the best chance to make it back healthy and able to play a part. Whether that happens or not is very much up in the air now, Duane Rollins lays out some interesting stats to mull over here, and there are many people coming to the conclusion that he probably isn't worth the cap hit and DP spot in what will likely be another tough rebuilding year next season. I can reluctantly agree with that point, TFC right now under Paul Mariner is no time or place for old men.
From my latest Sportsnet article: "With less emphasis on possession play and more of a counter attacking style preferred, Frings' strengths (calm under pressure, thinking quickly and making the passes to connect defence to attack) have become less valuable.
Plus his age and the decline in speed that comes with it are magnified in a team-wide style that puts so much pressure on the defence with little time to rest between attacks. If this is it for Frings at TFC, it's a sad end to what looked like being a good little career-ending cameo for him."
Maybe he will be back next season, maybe TFC don't want him back, maybe it's Frings himself who's decided that this isn't what he signed up for, we won't know anything until any decision is announced, and even then probably not the whole story, but using that context to read between the lines, this may well be TFC's way of giving him a respectful exit, allowing him to slip quietly back to Germany rather than push him through an increasingly ignominious and injury affected end to the season, before memories of his earlier career, or even just his more effective time earlier with TFC under Aron Winter are scarred too much.
That respectful thing doesn't survive a Kurt Larson article based on an exclusive interview with Paul Mariner, that revs up the bus Mariner and Larson drove over him last week and takes it for another spin back and forth over the body. There's more questioning of his effectiveness, another reminder that the Santos Laguna loss was judged to be his fault and also a suggestion that his status within the stands has apparently plunged recently, which is news to me. There's more criticism for sure, but I'd say most of that is a reflection on what is now expected of him under Mariner, a role that he really isn't suited for at this time of his career. If fan disgruntlement is now to be noted and taken seriously in this sort of article, there's a lot more grumbling out there about Mariner than there is about Frings, just saying.
Mariner then pushed all the responsibility for Frings' future on to Frings himself, saying "With the rigours of (MLS) it's basically a decision he'll have to make whether he thinks he can do it. We're expecting him to be back and we're expecting him to be fit but it's his body."
Mariner then brought out the old injury excuse that certainly didn't get Aron Winter any slack this year, as well as did his best to diminish his role in his first 18 months at TFC, saying "As the director of player development you can only do so much," he said. "I had no say on team selection, no say on formations and no say on anything to do with the field." That neatly bypasses the fact that very few people were suggesting he was involved in that, but instead most of the questioning has been on how much of an impact he had on building the squad that he's now rebuilding while his apologists bemoan it isn't good enough and it'd be unfair to judge his results because of that.
Other interesting tidbits in the article (it's worth a read, say what you will about Mariner, he's not dull with the media) saw some pointed criticism of Eric Avila and vague pouring of oil onto the flames of the Milos Kocic contract dispute rumblings.
At least Frings has been spared the slow death from the bench that those two seem to be set for now, a dignified retirement/buyout in the winter would probably be for the best at this stage. If that does happen, well thanks for everything Torsten, it's a shame it didn't end the way anyone would want.