Toronto FC fans have been left in the dark over the status of veteran striker Danny Dichio ever since Saturday night's 2-0 loss to Chivas USA in Los Angeles.
Dichio, renowned for his combative and physical style of play, didn't travel to California with his teammates for the opener of a crucial three-game road trip, leaving many supporters to wonder whether the club's all-time leading scorer had been released from his contract or was about to be traded.
Coach Chris Cummins shed light on the situation after Toronto FC's Monday morning practice, revealing the six-foot-three-inch Dichio, who turns 35 in October, is too banged up physically to travel with the team to West Coast games.
"We've come to the conclusion that with Danny the best thing for him is not to travel to the West Coast, because you're not going to get anything out of him because of his body," Cummins explained.
According to Cummins the strain of a five-hour flight is too much for Dichio to handle.
"What we said we'd do is we won't let him travel, unless we have to, to the West Coast because of the [shape] he's in, because of the age of his body," Cummins said.
"If he spends two hours in an airport and five hours on a plane, he’s going to be stiff as a board come game time. It's better that he stayed back — he rested and spent time with his family — and get ready for the home games and the more local [road] games."
So, will Dichio be alongside his teammates when Toronto visits the Seattle Sounders on Saturday (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 3:30 p.m. ET) in another important road game?
"It depends," Cummins said. "For the younger players, it's not great flying and playing games, but you have to deal with it. If you're asking someone of Danny's age and nature to do that … He said he finds it tough to do that, sitting on a plane for five hours and then playing.
"Don’t get me wrong – if we haven’t got enough players then I would ask him to travel. But for the benefit of him prolonging his career and to get the best out of him in our home games, it’s best for him to stay behind."
Dichio joined Toronto FC in 2007 (the same year the team entered Major League Soccer as an expansion franchise) and cemented his status as club legend by scoring the team’s first goal.
Since then he's become a firm fan favourite due to his combative nature on the field, and for his knack of scoring important goals.
However, success has come at a price — he's been dogged by a rash of serious injuries the past two years.
Concussion problems resulted in Dichio missing several months of action during the 2008 campaign, and the rigours of regularly training on BMO Field's artificial surface and past injuries still proving bothersome have resulted is his playing time being drastically cut in 2009.
Despite a reduced role, Cummins insists Dichio, who publicly stated back in March he planned to retire at the end of this season, still has a big role to play with the team both on and off the field.
"Danny’s still a massive part of this team. He talks to the young kids [in practice] and he's helping them with their finishing. … We have to manage him properly. He will come on and score the goals we need at the right time."
While Cummins talked openly about the situation concerning the veteran striker, Dichio was less than forthcoming, turning down CBCSports.ca request for an interview.