By Brian Westfall, Soccer Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Toronto FC got a lot less intimidating this week.
Danny Dichio, who spent years crafting his skills in England's Premier League, is expected to miss at least three weeks - likely more - with a pulled hip flexor muscle.
Dichio, equal part striker and enforcer, has been battling various injuries since arriving in Major League Soccer, but until now he's been able to play.
First it was an ankle injury for Dichio, then problems with his back - which he's had surgery on twice in his career. Toronto coach Mo Johnston was forced to limit Dichio's minutes in recent contests, but he won't have that option in the upcoming weeks.
Daniele Dichio is expected to miss at least three weeks with a pulled hip flexor muscle.
As a result, the expansion club might have trouble staying out of last in the Eastern Conference in its inaugural season.
Forget about the team-high five goals - which includes the first in franchise history - and one assist Dichio has, it's his overall play and the attitude he brings to the field that has been a bigger difference.
"I think that guy gives me two more years on my career, because he takes so much abuse," said Toronto striker Jeff Cunningham, who is also injured. "I have always heard of players that make others around them better and I see that in him ... He makes others around him better."
Not only does Dichio look like a warrior in his No. 9 Toronto jersey, he plays like one. The 6-foot-3, 209-pounder limped around BMO Field on Sunday, giving his team everything he had for 67 minutes.
It was obvious Dichio wasn't completely fit, but Johnston was already missing so many starters that he almost had to use him.
Little did anyone know when Dichio walked off the field Sunday, his bald head glistening with sweat, that it would be the last time he played for weeks.
Dichio's injury couldn't have come at a worse time for Toronto. Captain Jim Brennan fractured two ribs and fellow defender Andrew Boyens had a concussion and a broken nose Sunday. All three should be out this weekend, along with Cunningham, Ronnie O'Brien, Marvell Wynne and Greg Sutton.
None of the injuries is welcome, obviously, but Dichio's is the worst yet.
Dichio scored the first goal in franchise history in the club's first win on May 13. He was also ejected in the first half of the 3-1 win over Chicago - the team's only win over an Eastern Conference opponent this season.
"It's just a fantastic kind of emotion ... especially when the goal went in, and Frisbees where coming in onto the pitch, and the really loud roar when it went in as well," Dichio said. "Obviously I was a bit upset with my sending off and stuff, ... but the boys did really well in the second half."
That game, Dichio's second with Toronto, was the start of a 10-game stretch where the club won five games, tied one and lost four. Not a great period, but compared to opening the season with four straight shutout losses, it was a huge turnaround.
A stretch where Toronto quickly turned into a team that could contend for a playoff spot. But the team is struggling again and is winless in four straight to drop into a tie with Chicago at the bottom of the conference.
As injuries started to catch up with Dichio, it started to hurt Toronto. Now it has to go to battle without him, and climbing back out of last place will be a lot harder - somewhat intimidating, even.