Saturday, March 17, 2007

Toronto FC working through injuries


BRADENTON, FLA. — When he isn't working with his players on the field, Toronto FC head coach Mo Johnston often has his cellphone to his ear during workouts.

As the Major League Soccer expansion team approaches its season opener against Chivas USA in Carson, Calif., on April 7, there is still work to be done in putting together a team.

One of the concerns is a series of relatively minor injuries that have hampered several players' training.

"It's starting to get to be a bit of a joke," Johnston said.

It is something he said he will try to address as the opening game approaches.

"We're in the market for another defender," he said.

The team worked out for two weeks at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., and will resume training on Monday in Charleston, S.C., where it will play three exhibition games the week after.

Someone who has yet to play is midfielder Maurice Edu, the first-round draft pick from the University of Maryland, who was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his pelvis in November.

"We knew what we were getting," Johnston said, "we knew the injury and it won't be long until he's in there."

Defender Marco Reda, who has been hampered by a thigh injury, said this week that he feels he will be ready for the season opener. Johnston called the injury "disappointing because we're trying to work on our back line."

Then there is striker Conor Casey, who Johnston said "has picked up a couple of little things, nothing too serious. Hopefully, he will be on the field come Charleston."

Midfielder said his knee injury is coming along and he expects to be able to play in Charleston.

Johnston likes the makeup of the team, but he would like to have had more time to have all his regulars available "at the same time, and then working with them. We just wish we had a little bit more time to prepare."

On the positive side, Johnston said, "We're moving forward and right now we don't look like an expansion team, with the players we have."

He did allow that his team looked like an expansion team in being held to a 0-0 tie by the U.S. under-17 team this week. But there were missed chances, and, he said, "We could have dug deep and won easily."

In Charleston, two of the three games will be against MLS teams, including Johnston's former team, the New York Red Bull, on March 28. He plays down that matchup.

"That doesn't bother me," he said. " I'm not interested in any other team in the league but Toronto FC."

The other MLS opponent will be MLS Cup champions Houston Dynamo on March 24. The other game will be against the Charleston Battery of the United Soccer League First Division on March 31.

The team will train at Charleston Southern University and the games will be played at the Blackbaud Stadium on Daniel Island.

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