April 5, 2007 Toronto FC Carl Robinson to fill in for injured Ronnie O'Brien (from Toronto Star)

Welsh star to fill hole left by O'Brien injury

Robinson says he's happy to play under pressure: `It brings out the best in me'

Apr 05, 2007 04:30 AM

Last week Toronto FC head coach Mo Johnston saw Carl Robinson's return to the team as a chance to fill out a midfield that figures to be one of the league's best.

This week he needs Robinson to plug a gap.

On Tuesday Robinson, who spent March playing with the Welsh national team, practised with Toronto FC for the first time in a month. That same day midfielder Ronnie O'Brien partially tore a ligament in his right knee and won't play again for at least a month.

And now Toronto FC, which played through the pre-season without several projected starters, will play its first regular-season game in Los Angeles against Chivas USA on Saturday without its first-string lineup.

But Johnston's not panicking yet.

"I'd like a couple of defenders and a little more depth, but at the end of the day I'm comfortable with the people we've got on the field," Johnston said.

O'Brien, who started 26 games with FC Dallas last season, missed time in February after injuring the same knee, but emerged as one of the team's top players during the Carolina Challenge Cup last week.

Without O'Brien, the team figures to lean on Robinson, who voided the last two years of his contract with English club Norwich City so he could sign with Toronto.

Robinson will now have to replace Toronto's top pre-season midfielder, work to fit in with a team he hasn't seen in a month and help them prepare for the first regular-season game in franchise history.

But Robinson doesn't mind the pressure.

"There's always pressure on a footballer," said Robinson, who has been capped 36 times by Wales. "It's part of the job, especially in England and now here in Canada. I'm quite happy to play under pressure because it brings out the best in me."

According to Johnston, other coaches have already called Robinson the best midfielder in the league, even before the 30-year-old has played an MLS game. Johnston's not ready to crown Robinson yet, but he's optimistic.

"I disagree a little (with calling Robinson the league's best) because we've not seen it yet," Johnston says. "But he's a tremendous player."

Robinson welcomes that pressure, too, and says it will help the entire team as it prepares for the game against Chivas.

"It's good to have a coach who believes in you," he said.

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