June 15th, 2024

Defender Shane O’Neill joins Toronto FC’s growing list of injured players

By Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press on April 11, 2024.

Toronto FC defender Shane O'Neill (27) defends the ball against New England Revolution forward Esmir Bajraktarevic (47) in the second half of an MLS soccer match Sunday, March 3, 2024, in Foxborough, Mass. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Mark Stockwell

Toronto FC’s injury list continues to mount with centre back Shane O’Neill the latest to go down.

O’Neill has started all seven of Toronto’s games this season, a fixture on the right side of coach John Herdman’s back three. But the 30-year-old Irish-born American was replaced at halftime of Saturday’s 4-0 loss at the Vancouver Whitecaps due to a quad injury.

While the injury is still being assessed, Herdman said O’Neill could be out “for an extended period.”

“It could be four weeks. It could be longer though,” the coach added.

Either Sigurd Rosted or Kosi Thompson is expected to step in for O’Neill on Saturday when Toronto (3-3-1) plays at Charlotte FC (2-3-2).

Rookie wingback Tyrese Spicer is dealing with a toe sprain, the same troublesome toe that sidelined him during pre-season. The team was expecting to get more information on the injury after a meeting with a foot specialist Thursday.

“I’m hoping he’s available this weekend for something,” said Herdman. “But the specialist might say otherwise.”

Spicer has started the last three games after coming off the bench March 16 at New York City FC to make his MLS debut.

Toronto already has Italian star Lorenzo Insigne, fullback Richie Laryea and midfielder Brandon Servania on the sidelines, with Laryea and Servania recovering from hamstring and knee surgery, respectively. Insigne is expected to miss six weeks with a hamstring injury that saw him hobble off the field in first-half stoppage time against visiting Atlanta United on March 23.

Forward Jordan Perruzza worked out on his own Thursday in the portion of training open to the media. He sprained an ankle playing for Toronto FC II.

“I don’t see Jordan available this weekend,” said Herdman.

Fullback Raoul Petretta, who last played March 9 in Toronto’s home opener, remains questionable. Herdman said while Petretta has trained this week, his injury is “at risk under fatigue.”

“Questionable as in will he start the game, will he finish the game,” said Herdman. “These are decisions we’ll have to make.”

The good news is centre back Nicksoen Gomis, who plays the left side of the back three with Irish defender Kevin Long in the middle, returned to action last weekend wearing a cast to protect a surgically repaired wrist.

Toronto, which started the season unbeaten in its first three games (2-0-1), has lost three of its last four while being outscored 9-4.

Concerns over durability will force TFC to change strategy when it starts playing two games a week, Herdman said

“We can’t be a high-pressing unit,” he said.

Herdman also said his medical team is “working hard behind the scenes” to examine every injury.

O’Neill, in terms of metres per minute, has been the hardest-working player on the team this season, he noted.

“He’s just pushed and pushed and pushed. And pushed too far where his body breaks,” Herdman said. “Sometimes a 30-year-old when you’ve had some chronic injuries as well in the past, there’s only so far the body can push in that profile.

“He’s given everything.”

O’Neill marked his 50th appearance for the club in all competitions on March 30 against Sporting Kansas City.

Herdman said the club has “deloaded” training in a bid to protect players.

“Sometimes that’s just the luck. We’ve hit that bad luck again, with Shane.”

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 11, 2024.

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