June 21st, 2024

Toronto FC gets Laryea back but no firm word on Insigne’s availability for D.C. game

By Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press on May 31, 2024.

Toronto FC's Richie Laryea, right, controls the ball against FC Cincinnati forward Yuya Kubo during an MLS soccer match Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024, in Cincinnati. Laryea is expected to return from injury for Saturday's game at D.C. United. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Jeff Dean

Toronto FC gets Richie Laryea back after a three-month injury absence but Lorenzo Insigne’s status is uncertain ahead of Saturday’s game at D.C. United.

Insigne missed Wednesday’s scoreless draw in Philadelphia to be back in Naples, Italy, for the birth of his third son, Mattia.

“We’re doing everything we can on our side (to get him back). He is as well,” coach John Herdman said Friday. “There’s just one little wrinkle we’re trying to get over logistically.”

Herdman said there was “a chance” the Italian star attacker could arrive Friday night or Saturday morning.

With Toronto facing a two-week break, putting Insigne — who turns 33 on Tuesday — on a plane for a 7,400-kilometre flight for one game seems risky – especially considering his recent injury history. But given Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment’s deep pockets, it’s not like Insigne would be flying coach.

Asked about the Italian’s travel arrangements, Herdman replied: “That’s not my department.”

Laryea is with the team and ready to see action at Audi Field, however.

“He’ll be available, which is great news – great news for him, for us, for Canada as well,” said Herdman. “He’ll be expected to play minutes (Saturday).”

Laryea has been out since injuring his right hamstring in the season opener Feb. 25. The fullback/wingback underwent surgery March 23 in London, England, with a three-month recovery timeline.

German forward Prince Owusu is “day to day” with a tight calf, with Deandre Kerr ready to go if needed.

Toronto (7-7-2) goes into weekend play in sixth spot in the Eastern Conference, five points and four places ahead of D.C. United (4-6-6).

Toronto put on a poised performance in Philadelphia with Sean Johnson’s 100th career regular-season shutout welcome after leaking 10 goals in its previous four league outings (0-3-1).

Still Toronto is 7-3-1 in its last 11 games in all competitions.

Coming off a 4-2 mid-week loss to visiting CF Montreal, D.C. is winless in its last four games (0-3-1). Changing fortunes against Toronto won’t be easy, acknowledged D.C. coach Troy Lesesne.

“Toronto poses a number of challenges,” he said. “They’re very well-coached. I think that you can see that this year. John Herdman’s come in and done a really nice job just organizing his group. And then the next piece is the talent that they have to work with.”

Finnish defender Matti Peltola and Colombia forward Cristian Dajome are both suspended for D.C. Peltola was sent off after being shown a second caution in the Montreal loss while Dajome sits out due to yellow card accumulation.

Toronto will have to deal with six-foot-three Christian Benteke, whose 13 goals are tied for the league lead with Real Salt Lake’s Chicho Arango.

“He’s in great form and he’ll be difficult to contain,” Herdman conceded. “So for us, we have to get on the front foot against D.C. and be ready to risk a bit to put the ball in the back of the net in an away game.”

The 33-year-old Belgian international’s footballing resume includes England’s Crystal Palace, Liverpool and Aston Villa as well as Belgium’s KRK Genk, KV Mechelen and Standard Liege.

D.C. goalkeeper Alex Bono is no stranger to Toronto, having spent eight seasons in TFC colours. The 30-year-old still holds Toronto records for goalkeeper wins (67 in all competitions) and clean sheets (35).

Bono signed with D.C. in December 2022 after his contract with Toronto expired.

“I’m proud of him. I’m happy for him that he’s been able to step back into a starting role and take advantage of that,” said Lesesne. “Because I know that he’s had some highs in his career, obviously lifting a (MLS Cup) trophy with Toronto. Then he had to go into a situation where he was fighting to get back into that No. 1 position.

“He’s made a number of saves this year that have kept us in matches – Chicago just a week ago is a good example of that. And we’re going to need Alex to be in that type of form for us the rest of the year so he can continue to earn the No. 1 spot and help us ultimately get results ourselves.”

Toronto will look to Johnson, who marked his 401st career MLS game Wednesday, including regular season (386) and playoff (15) matches, and celebrated his 35th birthday Friday.

Toronto’s next game is June 15 against the visiting Chicago Fire.

Captain Jonathan Osorio and Laryea will join Canada in Europe for games June 6 against the seventh-ranked Netherlands in Rotterdam and June 9 against No. 2 France in Bordeaux. Johnson will join the U.S. squad for friendlies against Colombia and Brazil.

Midfielder Deybi Flores hooks up with Honduras for World Cup qualifying games against Cuba and Bermuda while winger Derrick Etienne Jr. and Haiti take on St. Lucia and Barbados.

Rookie wingback Tyrese Spicer was included in Trinidad and Tobago’s provisional squad for World Cup qualifiers against Grenada and the Bahamas.

Follow @NeilMDavidson on X platform, formerly known as Twitter

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 31, 2024

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