Toronto FC coach Greg Vanney is getting to dip deeper into his first-team squad a little earlier than expected this season.
Canadian international Tosaint Ricketts moved up the depth chart for Saturday's game in Vancouver after star striker Sebastian Giovinco was ruled out with a charley horse. Fullback Steven Beitashour, a former Whitecap, was due to undergo a concussion protocol test Wednesday to see if he would even be available for consideration.
Backup midfielder Benoit Cheyrou is in his native France, finishing work on his coaching badges. And newly acquired Spanish playmaker Victor Vazquez, after getting a routine maintenance knee injection, is likely to see limited action at best given the artificial turf at B.C. Place Stadium.
Of course, Toronto (0-0-2) is likely to get little sympathy from the well-travelled Whitecaps (0-1-1) who were beaten 3-2 in San Jose last Saturday and 2-0 by Tigres UANL in Monterrey on Tuesday night in CONCACAF Champions League play.
Vanney had been expecting to use more of his squad in May when Toronto faces eight league and Canadian championship games. But the injuries/absences coupled with the long flight to the West Coast, the Whitecaps' artificial turf and the fact that Toronto enjoys a bye week following the Vancouver game has opened the door sooner than later.
Given Toronto returned all 11 MLS Cup final starters and added Vazquez and French-born Congolese international defender Chris Mavinga, getting on the team sheet is difficult.
"I think it's important that Tosaint and some of our depth guys do get some action," said Vanney. "Especially guys who are veterans, who are senior players who we want to keep in the mix and make sure that we're ready.
"You never know how a season goes and you want to keep as many guys engaged and prepared and ready for the moment."
Toronto said Giovinco left Tuesday night for Italy to meet with his doctor. The meeting had originally been scheduled during the bye week but was pushed forward when he was ruled out of Saturday's game, according to Vanney.
Giovinco's travel plans were made public by the club after the Italian posted a selfie on Instagram that appeared to show him on a plane.
Asked whether a transatlantic flight made sense three days after suffering a painful leg injury, Vanney pointed to the time he would have to recover before Toronto's next game — the March 31 home opener against Sporting Kansas City.
Vanney said Giovinco's trip home was also more about getting his whole body checked out than the just the sore leg.
"It's something he likes to do periodically throughout the season."
Giovinco's trip to his homeland is a short one. He is expected back Thursday.
The five-foot-four, 130-pound Italian had to be helped off late in the first half Saturday in Philadelphia when six-foot-four 210 pound defender Oguchi Onyewu caught him with a knee to the right thigh in a challenge.
While Giovinco's skill set will be missed, Ricketts' speed and size offer defence different challenges.
"He's a really important part of everything that's going on," captain Michael Bradley said of Ricketts, who has already proved to be an impact player off the bench since joining the team last July.
Should Beitashour not play against Vancouver, Marky Delgado could take over for Tsubasa Endoh as his deputy. Endoh, a winger-forward, had a challenging day at wingback in the 2-2 tie in Philadelphia.
Jonathan Osorio would likely replace Vazquez if the Spaniard does not get the start, giving the Canadian international a chance to show he deserves his midfield role back.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press