Toronto FC are spending the week preparing for a date with the New England Revolution but when they head out to Gillette Stadium they will do so without Danny Koevermans. He has been out since Toronto's last visit to New England when he suffered a torn cruciate ligament that required surgery to repair.
Koevermans suffered that injury on July 14th in the first half of the match. He was battling with A.J. Soares in the Revs penalty area and just before reaching the goal line went down with what appear to be a serious knee injury from the moment it happened. The play started off promisingly as Koevermans made his way in behind Soares and Shalrie Joseph but when he picked up the through ball he seemed to struggle with his control allowing the defender to get back and put in a challenge that caused the Dutch forward's left knee to twist leaving him in pain on the turf.
Two days later the club confirmed that the injury was as serious as it had appeared as an MRI revealed the player would require season ending surgery that would not only rule him out for the end of the 2012 season but also the start of the 2013 season as the normal recovery time for such an injury is nearly 10 months to a year.
Here we are in May of 2013 since Koevermans had his operation to repair the damaged ligament in his knee. He has progressed in his recovery fairly quickly and could be ready to return to the field in the coming weeks with the potential return date to MLS action coming on June 1st when the team takes on Philadelphia Union at Bmo Field. The game against the Revs comes too soon for the forward and it is probably wise to avoid using him on that turf anyhow.
Over the weekend Koevermans played his first minutes in over 10 months as he featured in TFC's 3-1 reserve win over the Columbus Crew that followed the team's 1-0 defeat in MLS action. Koevermans was thrown into the starting lineup for Toronto and completed the first 45 minutes before being replaced at the half. He did not get his name on the score sheet but was out there for Toronto's first two goals as Jonathan Osorio and Jeremy Brockie both scored late in the first half.
Having spent over ten months watching from the sidelines Koevermans is not likely to be at the level he was at prior to his injury any time soon. We saw at the start of last season that he was a bit slow to get going when dealing with some fitness issues but once he did he again proved to be one of the top strikers in MLS. There will be pressure for him to returned to that level quickly as Toronto is in serious need of some scoring punch as Robert Earnshaw, Justin Braun, and Luis Silva just don't seem to be getting the job done.
In the 10 appearances leading up to his injury Koevermans contributed 8 goals and was a huge part of Toronto showing improved form following Paul Mariner replacing Aron Winter as the head coach. His ability to create space for himself and make chances with very little support and to convert those chances consistently was making the team look a lot better than they were and that is what the current squad could use right now. The Dutchman continues to have one of the best strike rates in MLS history having scored 17 goals in 26 league appearances as he has proven to be a top class finisher.
Toronto could use some finishing these days as the team has been wasteful with the chances that they have managed to create. Early in the season they rode the form of Earnshaw to some surprise results but now that his goals have completely dried up the losses are starting to pile up once more. The team has only managed to score 2 goals in their last five matches including that 6-0 game against Montreal. That dry spell has left them with just 11 goals through 11 MLS games with 5 of those coming from Earnshaw during his early season run of form.
With the goals all but dried up of late and fans once again getting very restless about the direction the club is heading in there will be a lot of pressure on Koevermans to make an instant impact. His value as a proven goal scorer will be huge but it hard to know what to expect from any player that is coming back from this sort of injury let alone one that is 34 years old and has no previous experience with long-term injuries.
Even if it takes him some time to get back to form having Koevermans back should be a boost for Toronto as he brings more than just goal scoring when he is in the squad. He is a far more complete player than Braun and should be able to open up space for Earnshaw and Silva as well as providing quality passing in the final third. That is something Toronto has also lacked as it is not just a matter of poor finishing costing them points in recent games. They have struggled to create chances and just having Koevermans on the field should make that a bit easier.
Before Koevermans can make his return to the lineup the club will have to figure out how to create space on the roster for him. The current count on internationals stands at 9 as the arrivals of Jeremy Brockie and Steven Caldwell combined with the departure for Taylor Morgan left TFC using all of their current international slots. Koevermans does not currently count in that total of 9 but for the club to include him on the active roster they will need to have an international slot available. That means that if he is going to make his return on the 1st the club will either have to make a deal for a spot or cut ties with one of their current internationals.
With so many of the internationals on loans (or short term deals) that end at the end of June trading for a spot that they would only need for a month would seem a bit unnecessary. They could cut ties early with one of the players likely to be on the way out come the end of June anyhow and after some poor performances by loanees I am sure TFC fans probably have a few names they would not really miss.
In the end, it is just good to see Koevermans getting close to making his return to competitive soccer. The DP forward has been a fan favorite thanks to his goal scoring and should be welcomed back with open arms by TFC fans who are longing for something to get excited about. His long term future with the club may be a question mark as the team looks to bring in at least one big named DP during the summer window but for now it will just be great to see Danny Koevermans back doing what he does best and that is play soccer and score goals.