Toronto FC were not happy with how they performed against the Vancouver Whitecaps tonight, but circumstances likely made that annoyance a whole lot worse. In the process of their 1-1 draw, Mark Bloom picked up an MCL injury, while Jackson injured his hamstring. Neither look like they will return soon, something especially bad considering the fact that captain Steven Caldwell will also be out for an extended period.
One of the lone positives for Toronto on the night was a penalty from Jermain Defoe which cancelled out Darren Mattocks' opening tally. It was the only one of what seemed like a dozen set pieces from dangerous areas that failed to find the back of the net. If Tim Bezbatchchenko has any more moves in the works, as it looks like he does, he might want to consider bringing in a capable set piece taker. Especially from those which are direct.
The aforementioned injuries are particularly destructive to the back line, where the absence of Caldwell already meant big shoes to fill. Before the season Mark Bloom hardly seemed like a key player in Toronto's setup. But the fullback has played almost every game for the club this year, and has consistently performed well. Luckily Nick Hagglund has proven to be incredibly solid out wide.
"Every team is going to have to deal with injuries at some point," said Justin Morrow of the weakened backline. "But we have great guys coming off the bench that are going to do a great job."
Jackson's injury isn't much kinder to Toronto, nor to the backline. The Brazilian hasn't always had the most positive performances, but has proven himself as an invaluable two way player. His ability to track back is going to be missed dearly, especially considering the fact that neither Osorio nor Oduro are nearly as skilled in this regard.
Another drawback to these injuries, evidently there are many, is the frequency with which Toronto will be playing in the near future. The club have five matches in the next 17 days. It doesn't help that they have another one of those pesky midseason friendlies against Tottenham. Surprisingly, even Defoe is not happy with the timing of this match.
"It's a game that we don't need," said Defoe. "But ultimately as a player what can you do but just get on with it. It's important to stay professional. You've got to do your job, and if we've got to play we've got to play."
On a positive note, Collen Warner was absolutely brilliant in this match, and has been a perfect addition to the team so far. Once Michael Bradley is fully back in form, the midfield pair may be the best in the league. After a little more than two months, the most controversial move of the season for Toronto FC, sending Issey Nakajima-Farran to the Impact for Warner, has turned out to be one of the best.
"He was the best player on the park," said Nelsen of Warner's match against Vancouver. "The amount of work he did without the ball, and his passing was fantastic. I think he was head and shoulders the best player on the park."
Doneil Henry is another player who deserves applause for his performance. It may have been his best performance of the season, and makes the holes in the backline seem less gapping. Bradley Orr's play alongside him was also notable. While Hagglund and Henry were the consensus centreback pairing among supporters when Caldwell went down, it seems like Orr and Henry will be the answer.
Tactically, this should be an interesting period for the club as three of Nelsen's starting fixtures are now out long-term. The club may have to move Bradley Orr back in front of the backline again because, as aforementioned, the wingbacks will not likely be receiving much defensive support from the wide midfielders.
Toronto have shown resilience all season without an ideal lineup, and it will never be perfect. Who knows, some of these holes could be filled by sources outside the club even. But either way, the next few fixtures are crucial to proving that they are more than just a couple of designated players.
"Were just trying to feel each other out as a team again," said Nelsen of all the changes. "I'm a perfectionist so I want to get this team to be bordering on perfect."