Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Frings Injury No Death Blow For Toronto FC

Throughout Toronto FC's CONCACAF Champions League series with the LA Galaxy, I was most impressed with two playres - Ryan Johnson and Torsten Frings. Johnson needs no explanation - his goals were clutch and well-taken. He nearly scored the dagger with a rocket from outside the box late in the second leg but still had a tremendous series overall.

Frings meanwhile was the architect to the defense. Normally a central midfielder, Frings was always a step ahead, a thought ahead of the Galaxy. Playing primarily a three-man backline, Frings was able to help keep both Robbie Keane and Edson Buddle off the score sheet as the Galaxy could only score two goals (from their own players' feet anyway) in 180 minutes. I told some colleagues that if Frings were to play the entire MLS season at defender, he'd be a strong candidate for Defender of the Year.

Now word comes out that Frings is injured. A hamstring injury will sideline him for 4-6 weeks according to Toronto FC. That means he will miss both legs of Toronto's CONCACAF Champions League series against Santos Laguna and may not return until May.

A death blow for Toronto, right?

Well, in Champions League it may be. Toronto will be massive underdogs against Santos Laguna, who polished off Seattle with a 6-1 drubbing in Torreon a week ago. Toronto need to head to Mexico with at least a two-goal edge in order to have a chance but a home win of any kind seems difficult against the Mexicans. With Frings, perhaps. Without Frings... massively challenging.

In league, though, their chances may not be as bleak. Consider this: Toronto FC will play four of their next five matches at home. Their upcoming schedule:

March 24: San Jose
March 31: Columbus
April 7:  at Montreal
April 14: Chivas USA
April 21: Chicago

Four matches at home, the fifth away to the expansion Impact in what could be a charged bit of a rivalry match.

The next four games are also favorable... well, aside from the first one...

April 28: at Real Salt Lake
May 5: DC United
May 19: at DC United
May 26: Philadelphia

It seems what could save Toronto during this time is that they play in the Eastern Conference. Their toughest match is the away fixture to Real Salt Lake. Aside from Chivas and San Jose, not exactly Western powers, the rest of the schedule is filled with Eastern clubs.

Losing Frings may have killed Toronto FC's CCL hopes but their league campaign should be strong. And if it doesn't, it won't be something their fans aren't used to.

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