The Fire’s availability report for Tuesday’s 3-2 loss to CF Montréal was too long to list here, with seven players out and another questionable due to injuries.
That begs the question: Why are the Fire so banged up? Is coach Ezra Hendrickson to blame? Is the team’s performance staff not doing its job? Or is it luck?
“Well, you know, injuries happen,” Hendrickson said. “We have had some unfortunate ones. I think we have a very good training staff. The high-performance people are [a] very knowledgeable staff that we have.”
Hendrickson said most of the injuries — specifically Kacper Przybylko’s back problem —were chronic issues that players had coming into the season. Yet as the year has worn on, more and more Fire contributors have found themselves on the shelf. And for the Fire, the absences couldn’t have come at a worse time.
There have been opportunities for young players such as Andre Reynolds II, but the problems have led Hendrickson to make other adjustments like starting defender Jonathan Bornstein as a central midfielder. That decision — in part due to Federico Navarro’s suspension for yellow card accumulation — was costly, as the veteran committed a turnover that led directly to a CF Montreal goal.
“We do our best we can as a staff, as a club, to protect our players,” Hendrickson said. “Sometimes maybe guys play a little longer than maybe they should or we didn’t rotate some games that maybe we should have, but all in all I thought we did what we can to make sure that guys are available. Because for a coach, the most important thing, doesn’t matter how good a player is, if he’s not available to play it’s very difficult. So we try to do our best as a complete staff to make sure we limit those injuries.
“But they have happened, and we have to deal with them and move on. We can’t really point fingers right now because we are all in this together and we are all trying to make this club a successful club, and it’s going to take everyone with that kind of mentality and that kind of focus for it to happen.”
Managing injuries is incredibly important for any team, and maybe more so for the Fire.
Their depth, an obstacle even before attrition set in, was going to be worth monitoring. And their biggest name, designated player Xherdan Shaqiri, has international commitments with Switzerland that add to his workload, and he isn’t exactly known for his durability.
Along with improving the roster, figuring out how to keep more players healthy should be one of the key goals this offseason.
“We’ll get this thing sorted out, get guys back on the pitch as quickly as we can,” Hendrickson said. “And moving forward we just make sure we do what we can as a club to make sure that player availability is something that’s front and foremost because that’s what it takes to win games in this league. You have to have the players to do it but every team has some injuries. We just have to manage it better and deal with our injuries the best way we can, and I think that’s what we’ve been trying to do.”