TORONTO, Canada—It’s no secret that Toronto FC have picked up an eye-opening amount of injuries this early into the 2021 Major League Soccer campaign.
On Saturday in the club’s season opener vs. CF Montreal, the team had eight players who were unavailable for selection, which is actually slightly better than their previous two matches of the 2021 campaign vs. Club León where they were down a staggering 10 first-team guys.
Latest Toronto FC Injury Report vs. CF Montreal
Ayo Akinola (Undisclosed)
Chris Mavinga (Left Calf)
Alejandro Pozuelo (Right Thigh)
Achara (Left ACL/LCL Surgery)
Julian Dunn (Right Hip Osteochondral Injury)
Jozy Altidore (Right Thigh)
Erickson Gallardo (Right Groin Surgery)
Jonathan Osorio (Right Thigh/Suspension)
The silver lining to take way from the extensive injury report is that only Achara and Dunn have been placed on the league’s ‘Injured List’, meaning they’ll miss a minimum of six MLS games before being eligible for selection. Everyone else, with the exception for Gallardo—who will miss four-to-six weeks after undergoing surgery on his groin—appears to be close to a return.
So, what’s the reason for all of the knocks Toronto FC have taken so far? Here’s what head coach Chris Armas had to say when he was asked about the injury situation by Michael Leach in the build-up to last Saturday’s match vs. CF Montreal:
“The reason for some of these small injuries that we’ve had in this initial stage is for many factors: the strange time that we’re all living in creates an offseason that’s a little staggered for guys, it’s not normal let’s say,” explained Armas. “You have guys come back at different fitness levels, there’s a coaching change in the offseason, so everything that would’ve been done in place ... Jim Liston, the club’s head performance guy also leaves, was he checking in on guys along the way?”
From my perspective, it’s disappointing to hear that Toronto FC wasn’t prepared for a transition like this. When Greg Vanney announced he was stepping down as head coach on Dec. 1, it was no secret that Liston was his guy and it was pretty obvious from an outsider’s perspective that he was going to head to LA Galaxy with Vanney. Was the club not checking in on guys along the way like they should’ve been?
Granted, as Armas pointed out, this offseason was particularly challenging with all of the pandemic restrictions in addition to the uncertainty surrounding labour negotiations and when the start of the actual MLS season would be.
Still, TFC knew they would be competing in the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League—or at the very least the Canadian Championship—at around this time for months on end.
That being said, when the club did finally get back to training in February, they of course were hit by an unfortunate COVID-19 outbreak at camp, which certainly threw the training regimen off, so we’ll cut the team some serious slack there.
Moving on, this is where things get really interesting and here’s what TFC fans should keep an eye on moving forward. How much does Armas’ high-energy, high-intensity, high-pressing style of play come into factor here as Toronto try and navigate what will be a very demanding schedule in 2021?
“In the offseason now, guys come back at different levels, and now you start pushing the envelope everyday with intensity and a style of play that’s very demanding,” continued Armas. “We saw benefits (against Club León) from it, but we’ve also taken a few steps backwards with some guys… we’ve taken some knocks as we’ve tried to implement a really high-intensity, transition-based team—and that’s not sometimes. Everyday in training we’re pushing that bar to play faster, your reactions, to push the limits, so that’s what’s happened in this initial stage.
“We believe it’s always hard to get that right. You have these discussions before training, and when you’re out there, you’re feeling what the session looks like if you need to go a few more minutes or if some guys are pushing a little too hard, it’s an art and a science to it, and we’re really working hard at this. I think again, we’ve seen benefits from it and we’ve taken a few injuries along the way.”
Armas would go on to reiterate that none of the injuries are serious injuries and that he hopes to have the squad back at full strength soon ... I guess Gallardo’s surgery isn’t considered a serious injury and neither is Dunn’s condition?
When asked about Pozuelo & Altidore, Armas says that it looks like the club will have a few of their reinforcements back for the next game.— Michael Singh (@MichaelSingh94) April 17, 2021
Regardless, for the most part, it appears that TFC are on their way to getting quite a few reinforcements back for their upcoming match on Saturday vs. the Vancouver Whitecaps, with a massive first-leg fixture on the horizon Tuesday vs. Cruz Azul in the quarter-finals of the Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League.
Let’s hear from you: what do you all make of the Toronto FC injury situation & is there hope that the team can get this ship right? Let us know in the comments.