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Toronto FC sends arrested players home, looks to get to bottom of what happened

Three Toronto FC players arrested for public intoxication in Houston have been sent home.

"Those players will not be eligible for selection (Wednesday against the Houston Dynamo)," Toronto coach Paul Mariner said Tuesday night of Miguel Aceval, Luis Silva and Nick Soolsma.

"The players are not with us in Houston."

The three were arrested outside of a Houston nightclub early Monday. The 1-10 team had arrived in Texas on Sunday, the day after a 2-0 loss in Kansas City. Toronto released a one-paragraph statement later Monday, saying it was aware of the charges and had no further comment at the time.

Mariner, who has one game under his belt as Toronto's coach, said the team is working with Major League Soccer and the players' union to determine exactly what happened.

"Everybody's got the respective reports, eyewitness reports and so on and so forth," said Mariner. "It's up to the league and the CBA (collective bargaining agreement) to do a thorough investigation and then we'll find out what we need to do."

Any other time and the episode might be dismissed as boys, allegedly, behaving badly.

But the timing of the arrests makes for poor optics for an MLS team struggling to turn things around under Mariner.

Word around the club was that Mariner, Toronto's former director of player development, was going to grant the players more freedom than what they enjoyed under Aron Winter's reign as coach. That meant more time for the players, fewer team meals and less rigid dress codes.

While the arrested players have not had a chance to tell their side of the story, making the police blotter after yet another loss is hardly the start Mariner will have wanted to his tenure as Toronto's seventh coach in six seasons.

"I think it doesn't matter whether it's basketball, ice hockey or whatever sport," said Mariner, a former England international. "I've been a professional athlete myself and you're held to a higher level of order because you're in the spotlight and you're living in a privileged position of being a so-called elite athlete.

"But sometimes people make poor choices and we've got to get to the bottom of it. I don't want to jump to any conclusion myself but obviously there was something going on because the police were involved. So I just took the action that I did so that we could just concentrate on something that was going on (Wednesday) night at 8 o'clock."

Mariner said there was no curfew Sunday because it was a day off.

"I just told the players about the following day (of training). I just thought that they would respond to that. And most of them did. But it looks like we had — well, I'm not going to use the words that just came into my mind, but some people chose not to be on their best behaviour, let's put it that way."

Toronto has plenty of other things to worry about as it prepares for its first foray into Houston's new BBVA Compass Stadium.

The team is 16 points outside the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

It has been outscored 13-5 in losing all five road games to date this season. And Toronto won just one of 17 away matches last season — a 4-2 win in Columbus on Sept. 10, 2011.

TFC's career road record against all opposition is a dismal 10-53-19.

Houston's 5-4-4 record is somewhat misleading this season, given a heavy away schedule early on while its new stadium was being readied.

And the Dynamo have a stellar record at home.

Houston is unbeaten this season in its new stadium (3-0-1) and have not lost at home since a 2-0 defeat to the Columbus Crew on June 18, 2011.

Dominic Kinnear's team is coming off a 2-1 Texas Derby win on the weekend over visiting FC Dallas.

The weather forecast for game time Wednesday calls for scattered thunderstorms and 28 Celsius (feels like 31) with 69 per cent humidity.

Toronto has had some time to acclimatize to the heat, given its Sunday arrival in Houston.

Aceval, Soolsma and Silva were all on the bench for the Kansas City game, with Silva the only one to see action.

Aceval, a Chilean defender in his first year in the league, started earlier in the season but has been relegated to the bench after a poor run. An injury has further hampered his return.

Silva was the team's top draft pick this year. A talented attacking midfielder, the young American has seen action as a starter but has most often come off the bench.

Soolsma, a Dutch forward, was one of the team's best players earlier in the season but has not regained his starting position since being out with hamstring injury.

The Houston game is the second in a five-match stretch packed into just 14 days. TFC has home games with New England and New York sandwiched around a visit to Montreal.

Toronto will be without defender Adrian Cann on Wednesday after he was withdrawn at halftime in Kansas City. The Canadian international will have an MRI on Friday on the knee he had surgery on last year.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2012
The Canadian Press

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