Cupboard almost bare for Toronto in home finale as Montreal comes to visit
Toronto FC's Eric Hassli reacts after sending a header over the bar against Santos Laguna during first half action in CONCACAF Champions League match in Toronto on Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2012. (The Canadian Press/Chris Young)
Published Friday, October 19, 2012 6:18PM EDT
TORONTO--The home half of a season from hell ends Saturday for Toronto FC against the rival Montreal Impact.
And as befitting a disastrous 2012 campaign that has lurched from one pothole to another, manager Paul Mariner finds himself with just 18 available players.
"We've got to reshuffle again," the former England international said with a sigh Friday.
"Just one of those seasons ... We never seem to be injury-free," he added.
Striker Eric Hassli has recovered from an ankle injury but won't play more than 60 minutes. Defender Darren O'Dea (thigh), forward Quincy Amarikwa (hamstring) and midfielder Matt Stinson (quad) are all out.
Forward Ryan Johnson is suspended due to yellow card accumulation.
Add those to a long-term injury list that includes goalkeeper Stefan Frei and designated players Danny Koevermans and Torsten Frings.
Mariner has had more than football on his mind recently. His father passed away during the international break, prompting an emergency trip back to Britain.
Toronto (5-20-7) has not won in the league for three months -- going 0-9-3 since a 2-1 decision over Colorado on July 18.
"So many ups and downs," added English defender Richard Eckersley. "More downs than ups, I suppose."
"Losing is not fun," added defender Jeremy Hall. "A lot of people, they only see us on the weekends but they don't know how much stuff we put in on the training pitch and the gym, trying to prepare for games.
"That's why it's so frustrating when you give up these silly goals."
In a bid to settle fan unrest, the club announced Thursday that it was rolling back 2013 season ticket prices to that of 2007 -- when the team went 6-17-7 in its expansion year.
Toronto's 2012 season started with a league-record nine-game losing streak. The team's form improved when Mariner took over from Aron Winter in June but the final stretch to the season has proved to be an equally disappointing bookend.
"I don't even look at the record now to be honest," said Hall. "It's kind of embarrassing. But we're definitely a lot better than our record. I think we've shown that in games. We just haven't played complete games."
With attendance dwindling and fan ire growing, Mariner acknowledged that a win in the home finale against a Canadian rival would be welcome -- especially against an expansion side that leads Toronto by 19 points.
"What the fans want to see is effort," Mariner said of the home finale.
They also wants to see signs of a franchise that knows what it is doing.
In its first season, Montreal is after win No. 13. In its sixth campaign, Toronto is after win No. 46.
Luis Silva is essentially Mariner's only option up front Saturday, with Hassli available only for a limited shift.
Freddy Hall will start in goal with Milos Kocic on the bench. A Kocic error resulted in the only goal in a loss to D.C. United last time out, but Mariner said the switch was due to complications arising from Kocic's recent fatherhood.
"Any fathers out there will understand that if you've got triplets and one's in and out of hospital or intensive care, it's not the easiest time for anyone, let alone a guy that's supposed to get out there in front of thousands of people and perform," said Mariner.
Toronto, which has given up 60 goals this season, will go with Jeremy Hall, Eckersley, Logan Emory and Ashtone Morgan at the back.
Montreal (12-15-5) was officially eliminated from the playoffs in a tie with Houston last time out but is looking to surpass the Vancouver Whitecaps (11-12-9) so as to regain first seed in the Amway Canadian Championship.
"We want to finish as the top Canadian team for the year," said midfielder Davey Arnaud. "If we can get two wins in our last two games and get to 47 points, I think that's a good number for a new team.
"If you'd said we'd be in this spot at the beginning of the year we would have been right around the playoffs. Unfortunately the points haven't worked out that way."
The Impact also have personnel issues.
Midfielder Felipe Martins is out for the season with a sports hernia. And assistant coach Mike Sorber will be in charge on the sidelines with Jesse Marsch suspended after being ejected from the game in Houston.
Montreal also has revenge on its mind in the derby, remembering a 3-0 loss at home to Toronto.
"It's really a big motivation," said Marsch. "It's a big rival. It's a derby match. We definitely remember the 3-0 loss here. That was painful for us. It was probably our low point of the season. So we're going down there to push this thing. We're going there for a win, no question."