Look for Jeff Cunningham to go ahead and have that hernia surgery this time.
This injury has lingered for six weeks now, and after a late July home game head coach Mo Johnston said the team was sending Cunningham to Germany, where the world's foremost sports hernia specialist would put him back together.
It never happened. Cunningham continued to rehab over here, then returned to the lineup for the final 20 minutes of last Saturday's loss to Chivas USA. He made a difference, gave Toronto chances to score, but afterward said he wasn't happy with his performance.
|AARON LYNETT/TORONTO STAR|
|You don't need to use your head to know the loss of Jeff Cunningham is huge for TFC.|
After Tuesday's practice Johnston again told reporters Cunningham was headed to Germany for surgery.
Believe him this time.
In the locker room after the Chivas game Cunningham talked openly about not suiting up the rest of the season. I'm no doctor, but he seems to have achieved all he can through rehab alone. And to hear a guy who hates sitting out as much as Cunningham does talk about missing the rest of the season tells you it's pretty serious.
And it's too bad for Toronto FC fans, because even an incapacitated Cunningham can spark the team. He and a hobbled Danny Dichio created more offence in 20 minutes than Andrea Lombardo and Collin Samuel did in the entire first half. That's not an insult to Lombardo and Samuel. It's just a fact.
But so is this injury.
Nobody with Toronto FC is saying yet that this operation -- if it happens -- will end Cunningham's season, but it's not a stretch to think that it would. The same ailment ended Philadelphia Eagles QB Donovan McNabb's 2005 season.
Still, I wouldn't read it as a sign that Johnston has given up on making the playoffs and is already playing for next year. Looks more like Cunningham and the team looked for a way to work around this injury and it simply didn't work. It's not easy.
The thing about Major League Soccer is that parity rules, especially when teams are (relatively) healthy. With Dichio, Cunningham and the rest of the regulars playing, Toronto -- last place in the East -- has defeated Houston and Dallas, the two top teams in the West. With Dichio and Marvell Wynne healthy and nine games remaining, including a home date against Real Salt Lake, it's not that hard to imagine Toronto grabbing three wins and a draw or two and sneaking into the last playoff spot.
It just looks like they'll have to do it without Cunningham.
-- Morgan Campbell
*IMPORTANT NOTE -- Just a reminder that predictions made on the blog are NOT legally binding, and shouldn't be used as the basis for your fantasy teams, proline picks or dealings with bookies (assuming you can find on that accepts bets on MLS). If Cunningham winds up skipping surgery and playing the rest of the season, I remind you that this blog is pure speculation, something designed to inspire discussion among Star readers. HOWEVER, if he does have surgery and miss the rest of the season, I will accept full credit for predicting it. No, it's not fair, but that's how journalism works. It's in the rulebook. Page three...*