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Italian star Insigne expected to be out for six weeks with a hamstring injury


Toronto FC's bid to keep Lorenzo Insigne healthy this season has hit a six-week roadblock.

That's how long the 32-year-old Italian star is expected to be out with the latest hamstring injury to afflict the MLS club.

A distraught Insigne hobbled off in first-half stoppage time of last Saturday's 2-0 win over visiting Atlanta, trying not to put weight on his right leg, after pulling up in the Atlanta penalty box on what seemed an innocuous play.

Toronto coach John Herdman said experts in Canada, England and Italy had studied Insigne's MRI, with their prognosis "a huge blow for us."

"It's one of those tricky ones, a little bit close to the head of the muscle," Herdman said of the injury. "When it's at that head, you've got to get a few opinions on it."

That's why the club looked to Insigne's Italian doctor as well as experts from the English Premier League.

"There's been no stone left unturned," Herdman said.

Insigne, the second-highest-paid player in the league last season at US$15.4 million, managed just four goals in 20 league appearances in an injury-interrupted campaign last year.

Herdman used him sparingly during pre-season this year and said his minutes would be limited this season in a bid to keep him healthy.

"We’ve got to manage him like he’s a Ferrari and make sure he’s looked after in that way,” Herdman said last month ahead of the season-opening game at FC Cincinnati.

TFC brought in Greg Bay, a respected physiotherapist and Canadian men’s team medical lead, as part of the “special support” to help look after Insigne. Herdman credits Bay for getting Canadian midfielder Stephen Eustaquio, who plays his club football in Portugal for FC Porto, “back to where he needed to be” after a serious knee injury.

Insigne has scored twice this season, both game-winners that were named the MLS goal of the week.

His injury setback is a dark cloud on what has been a sunny start to the season for Toronto, which hosts Sporting Kansas City (1-1-3) on Saturday. A victory and Toronto (3-1-1) matches its win total from last season when it finished last in the league at 4-20-10.

"They're a very focused group," said Kansas City coach Peter Vermes. "They're a team and that's what we all strive to be, whether it's the first day or over the course of the year. You want to be a team because that's the only way you win."

Herdman has had to deal with injuries, however.

Toronto goalkeeper Sean Johnson (thigh) and defender Richie Laryea have both been sidelined by hamstring injuries. Johnson, who has missed the last three games, is back training.

"He's close, very close," said Herdman.

Laryea required surgery, with a three-month recovery period. Herdman said Insigne's injury is similar to Laryea's but not as serious.

"The Richie reality has helped us understand this one a little more as well, hence getting multiple opinions on it."

Defender Nickseon Gomis (wrist) and midfielder Brandon Servania (knee) remain out. Defender Raoul Petretta (thigh) worked out on his own in the portion of training open to media Friday.

Captain Jonathan Osorio, who came off the bench last weekend after being sidelined by a hip injury, will be evaluated before Saturday's game to determine whether he can start.

On the plus side, defender Shane O'Neill has recovered from a knock to the head. O'Neill, who has had concussion issues before, saw a specialist this week.

"It wasn't a concussion so that's good news," said Herdman.

Herdman cited a number of factors in the injury equation, including training on artificial turf and switching from turf to grass, Age and stress are also contributors, he added.

"You have to de-load (players). And then when you de-load players, when they come to the game, they may not be ready for the full load of the game. So it's this Rubik's Cube that turns constantly."

Kansas City is expected to be without Johnny Russell (hamstring), Logan Ndenbe (knee) and Khiry Shelton (ankle),

Kansas City is coming off its first loss of the season, a 3-2 defeat at the hands of the visiting Los Angeles Galaxy that saw it blow a 2-0 lead and concede three goals in eight minutes.

Saturday will mark 1,758 days since Toronto and Kansas City last met — June 7, 2019, when they played to a 2-2 draw at BMO Field. Laryea is the only member of the Toronto squad that day still with the club.

Kansas City is 11-1-5 in its last 17 meetings with Toronto, including 6-0-4 in its last 10 — and 4-0-4 in its previous eight trips to BMO Field where it has not lost since April 26, 2009 (although Kansas City was beaten in the 2013 home opener at Rogers Centre).


This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 29, 2024.