July 9, 2013 - Richard Eckersley following training.
TORONTO - When Toronto FC defender Richard Eckersley went down with a hamstring injury at the beginning of April, not many people expected he would be out of action for more than three months.
But now finally back to full training and eligible to play against Sporting Kansas City on Saturday, Eckersley is happy to put a frustrating few months behind him as he looks to bolster a TFC squad in need of a change of momentum if it wants to stay in the playoff picture for the Eastern Conference.
“It’s been frustrating, but that’s football,” Eckersley told MLSsoccer.com. “I don’t think I rested it properly and that hampered my recovery time. It’s in the past, and I’ve just got to look to the future.”
As a player who was expected to be fundamental back line cog for TFC head coach Ryan Nelsen this season, Eckersley has been sorely missed.
With two tough road fixtures against Sporting Kansas City and Chivas USA coming up, the return of the 24-year-old Englishman will likely provide a significant boost to a squad that once again allowed a lead to evaporate on their home pitch in their previous match against Montreal.
Still, neither Nelsen nor Eckersley were quite ready to proclaim that the Manchester United product would start on the weekend.
“Richard is back training now,” Nelsen said on Tuesday. “He has only had five or six proper training sessions, so it is a bit early yet and we still have most of this week. But he has looked really good. Ecks is a naturally fit guy, so hopefully he’ll kind of fit in really well.”
Said Eckersley: “I’ve got to fight for my place back in the team. I’m eligible for selection, that’s what I will say for now.”
Toronto FC’s back four has changed significantly compared to its composition the last time Eckersley took to the pitch for a match against Dallas on April 6. Scottish defender Steven Caldwell has signed with the team and emerged as a leader, Canadian international Doneil Henry has solidified a starting role and team captain Darren O’Dea has morphed from a central defender to become the team’s starting left back.
“I like the potential with the players on the backline,” Eckersley said. “Hopefully we can keep the continuity and we can keep a solid back four that we can always rely on.”