Toronto FC’s injury woes deepened Friday with news that midfielders Michael Bradley and Will Johnson will be out for six weeks.
Bradley, the team captain and midfield lynchpin, has a knee sprain while Johnson, a midfield dynamo in his own right, has been diagnosed with a tibial plateau fracture.
Bradley’s injury came playing for the U.S. in last weekend’s third-place Copa America match against Colombia. Johnson was hurt Wednesday scoring the stoppage-time goal in Vancouver on that earned Toronto the Amway Canadian Championship trophy.
Toronto (5-6-4) lost goalkeeper Clint Irwin (quad) last weekend to a quad injury that will keep him out six weeks. Midfielder Daniel Lovitz (knee) and defender Ashtone Morgan (foot) are also sidelined.
Adding to the stress on Greg Vanney’s squad is the fact that Saturday’s game against visiting Seattle is Toronto’s fifth in 15 days. While three of those games were at home, the team still travelled 8,000 kilometres for games in Orlando and Vancouver.
Despite the crowded trainer’s room, the team found positives.
“It’s just part of an MLS season. It’s a grind,” said centre back Drew Moor, whose recent schedule included welcoming son Joey into the world. “You get injuries, you get international call-ups.
You really have to just buy into the system, buy into what we’re doing, believe in each other. And I feel this squad absolutely does that.”
On the plus side, defenders Damien Perquis (knee) and Steven Beitashour (shoulder, knee) should be ready to return to action against the Sounders (5-9-1). And Vanney say U.S. international striker Jozy Altidore, who has been out since mid-May with a hamstring injury, is expected to resume training next week.
Bradley, who has been away on international duty since late May, was hurt early in the Colombia game in an awkward challenge from Carlos Bacca. He kept playing but eventually left the game in the 79th minute. His injury is not seen as serious, however, with rest needed to allow the knee to return to normal.
Johnson, whose other leg was badly broken on BMO Field in September 2014 while playing for Portland. also heaved a sigh of relief after learning his injury was not more serious.
After launching himself into the air to take a shot, he collided with another player and his foot stuck in the B.C. Place turf. The top of the tibia took the brunt of the damage, but his ligaments escaped serious damage.
“It’s just the way he plays the game,” Vanney said of Johnson putting his body on the line. “That’s what we love about him.”
Bradley and Johnson were at the team’s practice facility Friday, with Johnson moving gingerly. Irwin was also on hand, his right leg covered with supportive tape.
Alex Bono is expected to continue in goal for Toronto.
“We’re getting a lot of work out of the guys that maybe at the beginning of the year weren’t going to compete for minutes,” said Vanney. “And now they’re guys whom we’re relying on to win championships and to win games and that’s fantastic. It makes our group stronger, it makes our group deeper and we learn a lot about the group – it kind of brings the group together.”
Seattle is coming off an adrenalin-fuelled midweek win of its own, dispatching Real Salt Lake via a penalty shootout Tuesday to advance to the quarter-finals of the U.S. Open Cup.
Now both teams to improve their league standings
Toronto has won just two of its last eight MLS games (2-4-2) dating back to May 1. Vanney’s team has given three or more goals up in three of those games, including two of its last three.
Star striker Sebastian Giovinco has eight goals on the season, but six of those came before May and he has not scored in his last five league outings. The Atomic Ant has looked somewhat forlorn in recent outings with little service.
Seattle has lost its last two and five of its last six league games (1-5-0), a stretch that has seen the Sounders shut out four times. The Sounders are 1-5-1 on the road this season and have only scored six goals away from home.
With just 13 goals in 15 games, goals have been hard to come by all season for Seattle. Sigi Schmid’s team has not scored in the league in 187 minutes, dating back to a 2-0 win at D.C. United on June 1.
Since Toronto’s last home game June 21, BMO Field has hosted the CFL Argonauts and Canadian rugby team. But there have been six days since the Canada-Italy rugby match and Vanney said he was confident the groundskeepers would have the surface in good order.