It was confirmed this afternoon that the injury Adrian Cann sustained in training is a torn ACL, that will keep him out of the squad for the rest of the season.
This is absolutely terrible news for Cann and for Toronto FC. Anyone doubting his value to the club can just watch what happened on Saturday without him. Ty Harden proved a very inadequate replacement. Dan Gargan's defensive shortcomings were exposed and Dicoy Williams looked a lot worse than he has over the last few weeks. As well as being a good player, Cann was obviously a very stabilising influence at the back, who made other players around him better. Say what you will about what it means for TFC's squad depth that a player of Cann's abilities, and he's no Jamison Olave or Jay DeMerit, is our best defender but that is clearly the situation, so where do TFC go from here?
With Dicoy Williams also unavailable due to Gold Cup duty for the next month or so, all of a sudden TFC needs to replace both their first choice Centre Backs. A quick glance at their roster gives us the following options as replacements, without moving people out of their natural position. Ty Harden, and after Saturday I'm sure we're all rejoicing about that one, Doneil Henry, signed from the academy late last year and who hasn't been anywhere near the lineup so far this year, and Nana Attakora.
Before finding out how serious Cann's injury was, I joked that it would be fun to see just what kind of new lineup Aron Winter would be able to put out without playing Nana Attakora and just how he'd explain it. Until now, Winter's assurances that Attakora's absence from the starting lineup was due to injuries or lack of form, and nothing to do with his ongoing reluctance to sign a new contract with TFC were just about plausible. Cann and Williams were playing very well together, starting Harden over him on saturday was surprising, but just about explicable, now though, it would be undeniable that keeping him out of the lineup is merely a punishment/negotiating tactic.
Surely now Attakora will get a start, but until Dicoy Williams returns from the Gold Cup, there's still a second Centre back position to fill, and that's where TFC fans are really going to have to take a deep breath and hope for the best. Ty Harden is the obvious choice, hopefully Saturday's error filled performance was just a one-off, but what about other alternatives?
For all his talk of looking to the future, Winter has seemed reluctant to play the draft picks and academy players filling out the squad, Joao Plata and a few short appearances for Oscar Cordon and Matt Gold being the only exceptions with Dan Gargan being preferred at Left Back over Ashtone Morgan being the most obvious comparison to this situation. So I doubt that Doneil Henry will be in serious contention for a starting place, if there's going to be anyone preferred ahead of Harden, it will probably be a veteran played out of position.
Mikael Yourassowsky saw time at centre Back in pre-season, so he would be my best bet as an alternative to Attakora or Harden. Another option is Tony Tchani. I've no idea if he has ever played at Centre Back but given his height and athletic ability, he would seem a natural choice as an emergency starter.
There's no real obvious solution, and when you add in the fact that even if Danleigh Borman replaces Dan Gargan at Left Back, we still won't be particularly solid there and that Julian De Guzman will also be missing from the Defensive Midfielder spot while he's playing for Canada, it just gets worse. All of a sudden, after looking to have finally settled on a first choice line up in the defensive half of the field, which up until the 6-2 fiasco had brought some much needed consistency and solidity to the pitch, now TFC are down to having only one defensive position definitely filled, and that's Richard Eckersley, who's only been in the starting lineup for just over a month.
It should be a very interesting time for Aron Winter. He had previously talked about the need to bring in a leader at the back during the summer transfer window, that need has now gone from urgent to desperate.
As for Cann, this brings an end to a thoroughly miserable season for him after last years MVP campaign. It started with a contract dispute that led him to walk out of training camp. That ended after a couple of weeks with him not getting the new deal that was rumoured to have been promised to him by Mo Johnston, and only after being forced into a humiliating public apology. It continued with the baffling position to play him at Left Back against Vancouver, before he finally got the chance to reclaim his spot in the middle fo the back 4. He recently played all the games after picking up bruised ribs serious enough to take him out of the game against D.C United, which can't have been easy, and led to a drop off in his play in the last few games, and now this.
During his contract dispute, a lot of fans were saying he wasn't that important, he wasn't deserving of a raise or that MVP award, now we'll all get to see just how valuable he really is to TFC, the evidence from last Saturday's game suggests it could be an ugly discovery.