Toronto FC striker Danny Koevermans has endured everything from defenders hacking at his legs to knee reconstruction surgery.
Not much gets to the big Dutchman. But the 34-year-old Koevermans had a hard time keeping it together Thursday when asked about the departure of friend and teammate Terry Dunfield.
The MLS team waived the hard-tackling Canadian international, whose US$120,000 salary and place in the midfield pecking order had rendered him surplus to requirements.
“He’s just a great guy, a funny guy. And he was important to the team,” said Koevermans, struggling to keep his emotions in check. “What can I say? I’m going to miss him.
“It’s sad it turned out like this, but as the coach said, it’s business. I can’t do anything about it. Unfortunately.”
Koevermans’ tradition of a pre-game coffee with Dunfield has fallen victim to the business of MLS soccer.
Dunfield started the season in central midfield along with Jeremy Hall but sprained his knee April 2 in practice. He returned to find himself deep down the depth chart.
Argentine Matias Laba, a young designated player acquired in late April, has since been installed alongside Hall.
Toronto can redeploy Luis Silva and Jonathan Osorio in central midfield if needed. Silva has been playing behind the striker while Osorio has been shifted to the right flank.
Manager Ryan Nelsen also pointed to English veteran Darel Russell, who has been used at fullback, as a possible midfield replacement. And rookie Kyle Bekker is also available.
“It’s one position we’re fairly deep-ish at now,” said Nelsen.
At 31, Dunfield also found himself a greybeard alongside the 21-year-old Laba and Osorio, 22-year-old Bekker and 24-year-old Hall.
Dunfield said last week his knee felt fine and he was willing to do whatever was needed to help the team. If Nelsen were to play him “he knows he’ll get 100 per cent from me,” Dunfield told reporters.
His services apparently weren’t needed. He was slated to play a reserve match in Pittsburgh last Friday but did not see action.
Dunfield is the 21st Toronto FC player out the door since the team finished the 2012 season with a league-worst 5-21-8 record.
And there may be more moves for Nelsen’s 1-7-5 team, which is winless in 11 league games.
Veteran defender Danny Califf and his $165,000 salary seem up for grabs. And Toronto is spending $200,000 on a backup ‘keeper in the talented Stefan Frei.
Nelsen says the club has identified its next transfer targets. “We have quite a few options in the works,” he acknowledged.
“We’ve lined up the guys we want,” he added. “If we can get three or four players that we’re trying to get in, we’ll be very close.”
The next transfer window opens July 9 although the team can make trades within the league. Nelsen and assistant coach Fran O’Leary were scouting in Europe recently while chief scout Pat Onstad and president Kevin Payne have been in Argentina and Uruguay.
Nelsen says his team is better than its record shows.
“The guys’ performances have been really good. We just haven’t got the points that we would like.”
A major reason for that is Toronto has dropped 11 points in seven games due to late goals.
Nelsen spoke highly of Dunfield, calling his release a difficult decision. Had the player been on a $60,000 salary, he might still be here, the manager acknowledged.
“But then again it’s a $60,000 player that probably isn’t going to see much time (playing),” he said.
Practices will be safer for Toronto FC players in the absence of Dunfield, who took no prisoners no matter that shirt they wore.
As an attacking player, Dunfield’s shots often missed their mark. And when they were on target in practice, no one made more noise about it than Dunfield.
But he scored six goals for Toronto, including a stoppage-time winner via a header against the Vancouver Whitecaps, his former team, in July 2012.
He was a key player for TFC in 2012, starting 30 games and thriving under manager Paul Mariner after Aron Winter was fired 10 games into the season. Mariner thought enough of Dunfield to use him as captain.
Acting Canadian national team coach Colin Miller also made Dunfield captain for a friendly against Denmark early this year in Arizona.
The Vancouver native was originally acquired in a trade with the Whitecaps in July 2011. He made 56 appearances for Toronto in MLS, CONCACAF Champions League and Amway Canadian Championship play.
One of his last acts as a Toronto FC player was to add to a colourful tattoo sleeve on his arm. Dunfield showed off the new ink, a tall ship, last week.
Days later, the ship and its owner had set sail.
Toronto plays Saturday at 1-10-3 D.C. United, the only team with fewer points. D.C. is winless in 12 league games.
Ben Olsen’s team has failed to score in its last three games but is coming off a 3-1 U.S. Open Cup win over the Philadelphia Union that saw a hat trick from Canadian international Dwayne De Rosario.
NOTES — Captain Darren O’Dea missed practice through illness and is questionable for the weekend at left back. Defenders Califf (back) and Richard Eckersley (hamstring) also missed practice.Report Typo/Error