By Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press on February 9, 2024.
Toronto FC has opened the second phase of its training camp, this time in California with three friendlies in the next week.
The squad flew Thursday to Santa Barbara, Calif., where it will play pre-season friendlies against the MLS champion Columbus Crew on Saturday, Real Salt Lake on Wednesday and Los Angeles FC on Feb. 17.
Given the travel, coach John Herdman said he will hold back some players as a precaution for Saturday’s late-morning kickoff against Columbus.
“Nothing too serious,” he said.
Veteran forward Adama Diomande, who saw just 166 minutes of league action last season due to injury, is still not ready for game action. Rookie winger Tyrese Spicer, the first pick in the 2024 MLS SuperDraft, is recovering from a fractured toe.
Herdman hopes both will see some action in the next two games, with Spicer expected to debut against Real Salt Lake.
“We had such a rough season last season with injuries, we want to make sure we get to the starting line with people healthy, (and) ready to go,” said Herdman. “He’ll be progressively phased through the Salt Lake and LAFC games.”
Herdman said while Italian stars Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi are healthy, he may hold them out given the travel and time spent on artificial turf during the last week in Toronto.
“I think (Saturday) I’ll be using as much as I can for more of an assessment of players and for the guys I know about, I can prioritize their minutes (for) when they’re fully recovered and ready to go.”
With Columbus playing its first pre-season game, Saturday’s contest will consist of two 60-minute games.
Toronto opened camp Jan. 13, leaving three days later for West Palm Beach, Fla. The travelling contingent returned to Toronto on Feb. 2 after posting a 2-1 win and 1-0 loss in back-to-back pre-season 60-minutes games with Nashville SC.
Herdman says he will use the three games in California to work on “tactical cohesion,” after spending the Florida portion of camp mainly on fitness.
He is waiting on additions to the roster with some young trialists, whom he did not identify, already in camp.
Herdman says bringing in new faces depends on the club finding the “right people” and doing the roster work needed to make space for them.
“What I can say is that I’m expecting some signings in the next two weeks,” he said. “I would assume I’m going to have some in prior to that LAFC game (on Feb. 17). That would be the mission of the front office to make sure that I can get at least a game or two under the belt of any new signing.
“So I know the club is working hard and speaking to some key players and some are closer than others to be across the line. But what I’m learning is you can get close and the next minute it’s gone.”
Herdman, who took over the team on Oct. 1, is looking to revive a franchise that finished in the league basement last season at 4-20-10.
TFC opens the regular season Feb. 25 at FC Cincinnati with the home opener two games later, March 9 against Charlotte FC.
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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 9, 2024