TFC Notebook: Priso's slow start, Osorio needs an MRI, and is depth a concern?

Michael Singh
May 5, 2022

After a run of four matches without a loss, Toronto FC have fallen back down to Earth, losing three-straight matches, including a pair of losses to FC Cincinnati – a side that’s won just eight games in the last two seasons.

Wednesday was always going to be a tall mountain to overcome when you consider how shorthanded the Reds were heading into Ohio, but it became an even tougher task when they conceded 80 seconds into the game and had a player sent off in the sixth minute.

Here are a few takeaways from Toronto FC’s 2-0 loss to FC Cincinnati on Wednesday.

Ralph Priso having a rough go

In a year where the kids are being given an unprecedented opportunity to shine, it’s been Toronto FC’s brightest young star from last season that has had the toughest go.

And it’s hard not to feel for Ralph Priso.

On a meaningless play that should have been blown dead, Priso suffered an injury last August that cost him the rest of his breakout season. The end result was season-ending surgery on his right ankle on a play that never should have transpired.

Motivated to bounce back as quickly as possible, he entered training camp in good shape, eager to build on his strong campaign from a year ago. But with that came the challenge of having to impress a new coach, the 19-year-old homegrown midfielder’s fourth manager in two seasons.

He was limited to just 45 minutes of action in the club’s first three games of the year, as Jonathan Osorio, Michael Bradley, and Alejandro Pozuelo logged most of the minutes in the midfield, while fellow youngster Noble Okello appeared to be the preferred choice over Priso.

And then Priso suffered a calf injury, which once again halted the teenager’s progress.

With Osorio unavailable (more on that later), Priso’s grueling past 10 months all culminated in Wednesday’s loss to FC Cincinnati when he was sent off just six minutes into his first start this season after a high challenge on Obinna Nwobodo.

“Yeah, Ralph came in right away and apologized,” said head coach and sporting director Bob Bradley after the match. “Look, he's a good guy. Of course, after being out, the opportunity to start tonight, we knew he couldn't play a full match, but we felt it made sense to get him a good warmup and get him on the field. I don't think there's a lot of force in the tackle but it's high.”

One thing Bradley and his coaching staff have challenged Priso to work on is improving his footwork and timing in the midfield, which means not being so quick to go to ground. That involves thinking faster and seeing situations faster so that he doesn’t react late.

“And that's true in terms of trying to help Ralph develop so that when we have the ball, he finds good positions and he sees things quicker and the same ideas work in terms of defensive reactions,” added Bradley.

It’s yet another trial the relentless Scarborough-born midfielder will have to overcome. Don’t forget, Priso was cut from Toronto FC’s academy on three separate occasions before finally making it as a 14-year-old. Four years later, he was starting a Concacaf Champions League match for the first-team.

It’s been a difficult couple of months for the teenager, but his story is just getting started.

Jonathan Osorio going for an MRI

As reported on Tuesday, Jonathan Osorio was forced to leave training just minutes after warmup began. He spoke to TFC’s physio staff, signalling to his quad area, before walking off, likely to receive treatment.

Now, the Canadian international is scheduled to get an MRI.

“Still trying to get to the bottom of exactly what he feels,” said Bradley on Wednesday after the match. “It's not a big -- it's been a little bit of a hard one to figure out. At first, I think he felt a little bit more on the outside. Lately, a little more in the middle. I don't think that it's very bad but it's still lingering, and so that's a concern.”

There’s a possibility that this issue stems back to last season as Osorio was forced to miss time with a similar injury. But nevertheless, depending on the timeline following the MRI, it’s a blow for TFC who have relied heavily on the Canadian international through the first stretch of this year. There’s an argument to be made that he has been their best – if not one of their best – players this year. In nine matches, he has two goals and four assists – already matching goal-contributions total from a year ago.

Is depth a concern for Toronto FC?

With Jonathan Osorio and Noble Okello likely sidelined – and Ralph Priso likely suspended – depth in central midfield will be a worry for the Reds heading into Sunday’s game at BC Place vs. the Vancouver Whitecaps, the club’s third match in eight days.

The same can be said about the backline. All four players that started Wednesday’s game (with the exception perhaps of Shane O’Neill) aren’t everyday starters for the club, as Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty (knee), Carlos Salcedo (health & safety protocols), Chris Mavinga (lower-body), and Jacob Shaffelburg (lower-body) were all sidelined.

There’s hope that Shaffelburg may be ready for Sunday’s game, while the status of Salcedo remains up in the air.

“When you're down the number of guys that we are right now, of course, we're thin,” said Bradley when asked if there was concern about the depth of TFC’s squad. “Hopefully get some guys back. We've been hit with a bunch of different things at the same time, so that makes the challenges a little bit bigger.”

Last match, four out of the seven players on the bench were TFC II players. That’s not exactly a recipe for success.

And with eight games between now and July 8, TFC’s depth will continue to be tested. They find themselves two spots out of a playoff position and just two points away from bottom of the Eastern Conference table.

Sources tell The Parleh that multiple players will arrive during the summer transfer window, however, does Toronto have enough in the tank to get there? To be in a position to compete when Lorenzo Insigne and others arrive? Or is this season just going to be about the process?

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