Naturally, Toronto FC have an injury concern in the one position on the pitch at which they do not currently have an obvious backup.
Steven Beitashour missed training on Tuesday due to what coach Greg Vanney described as a “mild concussion”, and will be monitored ahead of the meeting with the Philadelphia Union on Saturday. Now, saying “mild concussion” is a little like saying “mild pregnancy”, but we can probably assume what Vanney has been told is that his right-back has shown some symptoms and is still being assessed.
“He took a ball in the face that then led to some discomfort in the neck and head, so we’re tracking him as this week goes,” Vanney said. “I think they’ve identified it as a mild concussion and we’ll see how he is today, because it’s three or four days after. If he’s good through the course of today, then I think he can take the progression towards this weekend, but if not then he would be questionable for sure.
“I believe [he is going through the concussion protocol]. I don’t know - again, it depends on what the official diagnosis was when he saw the doctor yesterday. If it was diagnosed as a concussion, then yes. If it wasn’t, then it’s just more of a general recovery progression I guess.”
Beitashour’s potential absence is a problem for Toronto, who no longer have Mark Bloom to call upon to replace him. Former New England Revolution right-back Jordan McCrary trialled with the club during preseason but was not offered a contract, and Vanney seems instead to have decided to attempt to convert Tsubasa Endoh into a wing-back.
“I think [we need to see] a little bit of a positional switch because, again, he played a fair amount of out-and-out winger as he grew up,” Vanney explained. “Last year we played him sometimes as a central midfielder in the high part of the 3-5-2 in high attacking midfield, we played him in the diamond in attacking midfield, but I think he’s most naturally a wide player so we’re trying to see how he can fit in as a wing-back.
“We know from the attacking side he can give us good service, we know he has the engine to get up and down. I think he’s got to prove and work a little bit towards his defensive awareness, his positioning, also just his ability to compete physically in some of the actions that he finds himself in, whether it’s protecting the ball or winning the ball, challenges that he’s got to win.
“Any time those wing-backs end up in the back line, you end up in positions where you’ve got to defend and you’ve got to sometimes win challenges, whether they be in the air or on the ground. So that’ll be the challenge for Tsubasa.
“In terms of his technical ability and his understanding of the game, he’s been fine. I think it’s, again, just some of that maturity in the moment where the challenge is going to take place and you make sure you come out on the right end of that more times than not, especially if you end up in a defensive position.”
That makes sense in the long term, but whether Vanney would feel confident throwing the 5’ 7” sophomore in against the Union and Chris Pontius is another matter. Marky Delgado is a possible alternative and Justin Morrow would be, too, if not for Ashtone Morgan’s foot injury.