When Toronto FC defender Chris Mavinga mentioned his tooth pain as a possible cause of the muscle problems he’s been plagued with this season, Greg Vanney had to hold back a laugh.
Then he had medics look into it.
“I tried to keep a serious face,” the TFC coach admitted. “But then I realized, ‘Wow, he’s not so far off.'”
Mavinga recently had a problematic molar removed, and there is precedent to suggest that taking care of his teeth may help with his recovery from a nagging hamstring issue.
“I was dumbfounded as well,” Vanney said.
In 2009, AC Milan pulled the plug on a deal to sign defender Aly Cissokho over concerns he would be susceptible to injuries due to his teeth. It is likely that decision was made on the advice of the club’s then-medical advisor Jean-Pierre Meersseman, who has claimed that Clarence Seedorf got over 18 months of groin pain by having his wisdom teeth removed.
“This is one variable — I’m not saying one thing caused the other,” Vanney said. “In all of these situations, there’s just multiple variables at play. It happens that tooth issues can lead you to be susceptible, to a certain correlation percentage, to having soft-tissue injuries.”
Mavinga has struggled to get over the hamstring injury. He made his return as a substitute against the New England Revolution on May 12, only to be forced off again last week against FC Dallas.
The 27-year-old centerback is yet to have a scan to determine the extent of his latest setback due to the dental procedure, but Vanney said he had been feeling better the day after the game.
Mavinga will not feature against the Columbus Crew on Saturday and neither will Justin Morrow, Eriq Zavaleta or Ashtone Morgan, all of whom have trained lightly this week and are expected to be reintegrated into full training over the next seven to 10 days.
One of the latest additions to the injury list, Ager Aketxe, is looking at another two weeks on the sidelines.
“It was in a tackle – kind of in the challenge, his feet got taken out from under him at the same time and he had a bit of a groin strain in the process of that,” Vanney said of Aketxe.
Drew Moor and Jozy Altidore are long-term absentees, but in better news, Nicolas Hasler could be available to play against the Crew after a quad strain.
“A big thing for us now is to not lose guys we’re getting back,” Vanney explained. “So we’re trying to make sure, without rushing guys back, that they get through a reasonable amount of training sessions, protocols, all of those kinds of things. We’re trying to get as whole as we can, as quickly as we can without putting guys out there with immense risk.”
The players who do make the trip to Ohio could be making their final visit to the Crew’s Mapfre Stadium. Barring a playoff date later in the year, the two clubs will meet for the last time in 2018 this weekend under the shadow of Columbus’ potential relocation to Austin, Texas, for the 2019 season.
For Vanney, a veteran of more than 250 games as a player in MLS since the league’s 1996 inaugural season, it is a place that holds plenty of memories — including his lone goal for the United States in 2004.
“For me, Columbus is always a special place,” he said. “As a guy who’s been in this league since the first year, it was the first soccer stadium built. For those of us who have been pioneers in some way, that was really an exciting time — to say our sport has its own stadium that is specifically for soccer. That was a big deal, a really big deal.
“I played national team games there — I think I scored my only national team goal in that stadium, if I recall correctly. I’ve played in many a game in that stadium, so I think it’s played a huge role — that city, that club and that location has played a huge role in this league over the past 22 years. That’s something that I think will never be forgotten for those of us who have been through there. The decisions to leave and all that kind of stuff are up to them, and from a business standpoint it might make sense … But it’s not just any place — even though it’s a relatively smaller market, it’s still a special place in the history of this league.”