NEWS
04/13/2012 01:28 EDT | Updated 06/13/2012 05:12 EDT

After fishbowl of German soccer, Toronto FC captain savours the quiet life

TORONTO - In an athletic era of big bucks and seemingly super egos, Torsten Frings savours his anonymity.

In fact, the Toronto FC captain seems amazed that he has it.

"I love Toronto," the former German international said Friday in what may have been his first English-only sit-down with local reporters. "It's such a different life for me.

"Nobody knows me. I can walk around. I can enjoy everything. That's one of the reasons why I'm here. In Germany, it's totally different. I can do nothing.

"Here I'm a free man. I like it. I love it."

The 35-year-old Frings is a free spirit, sporting an array of tattoos and shoulder-length hair. He drives a luxury German automobile, but would look at home on a Harley-Davidson.

He is clearly popular with Toronto FC players and staff, who respect his skills, experience and easy-going attitude.

Frings lives downtown and admits to spending plenty of time at local arenas and stadiums, watching the Leafs, Raptors and Blue Jays.

"Toronto is very interesting for me, and my girlfriend," he said.

Frings was part of soccer's elite in Germany. He appeared in two World Cups and won 79 caps for his country.

On the club front, he spent 14 seasons divided between Werder Bremen, Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich before being lured to MLS last summer.

Frings has been out of action since straining his hamstring in the season-opening 3-1 loss in Seattle on March 17. The injury came during a lunging tackle in the penalty box that saw Frings poke the ball away from an attacker headed for goal.

At the time, the MLS side said the talismanic German would be out four to six weeks.

It now looks like the club had it just about right. Frings expects to be back April 21 against the visiting Chicago Fire, which is five weeks from the injury.

That means he will be a spectator again Saturday as Toronto FC (0-4-0) hosts Chivas USA (2-3-0).

Frings may be invisible on the streets of Toronto but he is sorely missed when not on the pitch at BMO Field. He is the glue that keeps together the Toronto backline. And while he has not played in a month, he remains a force within the locker-room.

Toronto has gone 0-4-1 in his absence in MLS and CONCACAF Champions League play, while being outscored 13-4.

"We played not too bad but we made too many mistakes — easy mistakes," Frings said.

None of the goals scored against Toronto this season were of the spectacular sort, he noted. The goals were gifted.

Manager Aron Winter had suggested Tuesday that Frings was just days away from returning, but dialled that back Friday

"He could be on the bench but I prefer to take a couple more days for him," said the Dutch coach.

Said Frings: "I feel good but it's not my decision, it's the doctor's decision and he says the risk is too high to play (Saturday). I think the next week against Chicago, I'm ready."

Frings warmed up with the team in practice Friday but did not take part in a training game, working instead with other injured players.

He sees positives that pint-sized attacker Joao Plata scored against Santos Laguna in Mexico and that big Danny Koervermans finally found the net in Montreal last week.

"It's hard for me. I'm injured, I can't play. I want to help the guys but I can't."

Frings said he had a "bad feeling" about the team's spirits last week but was more optimistic.

"I'm sure we'll start winning now," he added. "Everybody knows we have to do this. ... I'm thinking we are ready to win now. I'm sure we'll get the point (Saturday)."

Added Frings: "I believe in this team. And I trust the team."

Winter, for one, is confident the breakthrough win will come Saturday.

"I've got all the confidence. We trained very well this week. We're all on the same page."

Frings surprised reporters with his chat in English on Friday.

Often injured players are ignored by the media or the club doesn't make them available. But after several requests this week, the German was offered up.

Rather than do a scrum outside the team locker-room, Frings opted for the news conference room with the condition that no video be shot.

Reporters sat in front of the podium but Frings simply grabbed a chair and pulled up close to the media. While he seemed a little nervous operating in a second language, he surprised with his English skills.

Toronto defender Adrian Cann will make his comeback Saturday. He has been out recovering from knee surgery after a training injury last May.

"To be honest with you, man I thought it would be a lot sooner," Cann said of his return. "But listening to the trainers, I think this was the right decision."

In training Friday, Cann was paired with Miguel Aceval in central defence in front of goalie Milos Kocic, with Richard Eckersley and Ashtone Morgan at fullback. The midfield was Terry Dunfield, Luis Silva and Ryan Johnson behind the attacking trio of Plata, Koevermans and Reggie Lambe.

Acting captain Julian de Guzman was on the other team. Winter declined to say who will wear the armband Saturday, saying wait and see.

Forward Nick Soolsma will miss the game (hamstring), as will defender Logan Emory who is both suspended and battling flu.

NOTES — Both Toronto and Chivas have failed to score or win at home in MLS play this season. Toronto has yet to lead an MLS game in 2012 ... Chivas has won both its away matches, in Portland and Real Salt Lake. Fans at BMO Field will see veteran Canadian Ante Jazic at fullback for Chivas ... Winter says defender Dicoy Williams (knee) and midfielder Jeremy Hall (sports hernia) are a couple of weeks away from returning to full training.