We have been here a couple of times before.
But this week, Greg Vanney hopes his Toronto FC team is finally ready to get over its injury bug — for the most part, at least.
Veteran defender Drew Moor and star striker Jozy Altidore remain longer-term absentees, while the Reds are awaiting the results of a scan that will tell them more about Chris Mavinga’s hamstring issue. But in a week or so, those players may be the only ones left in an overcrowded medical room.
Nicolas Hasler, Marky Delgado and Nick Hagglund were all in the squad for the 3-3 draw against the Columbus Crew on Saturday, with Delgado and Hagglund appearing from the bench. All three came out of the weekend unscathed and are in contention to start Friday at the Philadelphia Union.
“We’re optimistic that this will be a fairly significant week of returns,” Vanney said. “Hopefully those guys are now free to play as much as we would like them to play.”
Vanney added the knock that forced him to substitute midfielder Jonathan Osorio in the first half at Mapfre Stadium had no lasting effects.
Eriq Zavaleta (quad), Ager Aketxe (groin) and Justin Morrow (calf) are also nearing comebacks, and either trained in full Tuesday or will rejoin the group Wednesday. They may not be in line to start in Philadelphia, but could play some part.
“All guys that are back into the fold now, should be in the mix this weekend and into the plan somehow, some way,” Vanney said. “We’re on a real mission here to try to get as many guys back effectively, this time, and not get guys back and lose other guys or lose them again.
“Progress is important. You can see it just in the number of guys out in training. It felt good — we were able to do some of the things that we really haven’t done. You see as some of those guys come back, the quality of training comes back up again because they’re important guys. Some of them are big personality guys for us, and so the presence of training starts to come back alive again. These are all little things that maybe you don’t think of on the outside, but the guys we’ve lost are more than just good players to this team.”
Toronto also hopes left back Ashtone Morgan (hamstring) is only a matter of days away from resuming training, though he is not expected to feature against the Union.
The Reds’ collapse in Columbus, where they led 3-0 midway through the second half, is the latest psychological blow they will have to overcome in a season filled with them. Vanney said the team has its eye on the World Cup break, which follows a home game against D.C. United June 13, and the much-needed rest that will come with it.
In the meantime, the TFC coach set a target of five points from the current stretch of three games in Columbus, Philadelphia and back in Toronto against D.C.
“We want to get there in as good a fashion as we can,” Vanney said of the upcoming pause. “We set a target number of points that we wanted to get in this little window here. Getting to that little break with the points that we talked about will give us a chance, I think, for guys to also just get a little downtime. Guys haven’t had more than just two days of break through all of this and I think being able to take three or four days just to recharge our batteries and come back in ready to really get going is a positive thing for us right now.
“We want to finish it strong and then regroup and set our targets as we move into the summer grind and then to the latter part of the season. I wouldn’t say we’re comfortable with where we are; we know where we are and what we have to do to get to where we need to be.”