TORONTO — It’s a bye week for Toronto FC in MLS but coach Greg Vanney still has plenty to ponder.
His team is awaiting word on its appeal of left fullback Justin Morrow’s sending-off in Saturday’s 2-0 loss to Columbus. And all three designated players could be away on international duty for Toronto’s next game, March 29 away to Real Salt Lake.
Midfielder Michael Bradley and striker Jozy Altidore are both on the preliminary roster for U.S. friendlies next Wednesday in Denmark and March 31 in Switzerland. And playmaker Sebastian Giovinco awaits word on whether he is needed for Italy’s European qualifier in Bulgaria on March 28 and Turin friendly against England on March 31.
“Salt Lake will have some of its own issues, I imagine,” Vanney said a little hopefully,.
Real Salt Lake (0-0-2) also has a bye this week.
In the meantime, the Toronto coach is using the time off to look within.
“This gives us a little bit of a pause for us to really look at ourselves and improve on some of the things that we need to improve on as we move forward as a group,” Vanney said after practice Wednesday.
“We’re still working out some kinks,” said Bradley, who is acutely aware that the more time the team takes to gel, the longer the road to the playoffs may be.
“We have to move ourselves forward in a strong way and we have to push the envelope every single day in terms of how we train and how we prepare ourselves for games on the weekend,” he added.
With five more road league games looming before Toronto finally plays at home May 10 at a newly renovated BMO Field, Vanney says he has no issues with the early bye.
Vanney, whose team rallied to defeat the Whitecaps 3-1 in Vancouver in its season opener, will look to players like striker Luke Moore and midfielder Collen Warner to step in for those away on international duty.
“And we have guys who quite frankly deserve minutes and this will give then an opportunity to get some (playing) time and play and to show us what they have,” Vanney said.
Mark Bloom may be a beneficiary. The starting right fullback last season, the 27-year-old Bloom lost his place to midfielder and utility defender Warren Creavalle in pre-season. But Creavalle’s learning curve at fullback has been steep in a small sample size this season.
“We do have competition within the group,” Vanney said.
Canadian international Ashley Morgan and Bloom, who can also play left back, are the current understudies at fullback.
Marky Delgado could be a option down the line but he’s headed to England next week with the U.S. under-20 team.
Veteran centre back Steven Caldwell had to leave the Columbus game at halftime with a calf strain. Vanney said he will be assessed next week.
It’s a worrying sign for Toronto, who lost Caldwell for almost a third of the season in 2014 with muscle issues. Vanney pointed to practising on artificial turf and then playing on grass as part of the problem.
Defender Eriq Zavaleta is also sidelined. He was in a walking boot Wednesday as a result of a “knock” in training.