Monday morning I published a story about striker Jeff Cunningham, and how personnel and formation changes at TFC have pushed the league's third-highest scoring active player to the sidelines and, eventually, to the reserve team.
More than a few readers have asked me how he feels about moving to the bench, but after assisting on Toronto's first reserve game goal and scoring the second, he took off at halftime, so I never got to ask him where his head's at these days.
Got the chance after today's practice.
Before we go on, understand this about Cunningham:
The guy works hard.
I realize he arrived here with a bit of a prima donna rep, and I know some fans think he sulks on the bench, then dogs it on the field if he's not starting and scoring goals.
But in the 11 months he's been here I've noticed that most days he's one of the last guys to leave the practice field. After the team stretches and guys head to the showers Cunningham often returns to the field with a partner and a bunch of soccer balls and works on finishing.
At 31, he realizes he's not going to play forever, and after 267 MLS games he seems determined to make the most of what's left of his career, hence the extra practice.
Now, I can already hear the skeptics wondering how much good that extra work is doing. Eighteen games with TFC and four goals to show for it. Big deal.
Point taken, but there are much worse ways for an aging goal scorer to spend his free time.
Anyway, when I asked Cunningham how he feels about his new role as a substitute, he said he actually didn't mind it. The team's on a three-game winning streak, so what is there to complain about?
"I don't consider it a role. My job is to make the coaches' decision (about whom to start) as difficult as possible," he said. "Right now I'm just trying to help the team win matches, and if that means playing five minutes, or one minute, as I did against Salt Lake, then that's what it is."
As far as reserve games are concerned he couldn't even remember the last time he played in one, but thinks he said more with his performance Saturday than he can in an interview.
"I did my job, had a goal and an assist in 45 minutes," he said. "That's good enough production. It should help me get at least in the 18 for the next match."
-- Morgan Campbell