TORONTO — Manager Greg Vanney says injured striker Jermain Defoe is anxious to get back to Toronto FC this season.
Vanney talked to Defoe by phone this week. The 31-year-old star is expected back Monday from England where he has been nursing a groin injury.
"The discussion was about him being back on Monday and we’ll sit down and chat a little bit more (then)," Vanney said after practice Saturday. "Clearly we talked about (the fact) there’s been change here which he’s well aware of. I know he’s been in communication with some of the guys.
"But he seems anxious to get back and get to work. We’re happy to get him back in the team. Clearly he brings a lot of quality to the group, so we’re all happy to get him back here as quickly as possible."
There is no firm date for his return to game action, although the Oct. 4 contest in Los Angeles against the Galaxy has been mentioned as a possible comeback.
"There’s really no way of knowing until he gets on the training field and sees what the response is to all the treatment he’s had," said Vanney.
Questions remain on how committed Defoe is to the club after this season, however. The next transfer window opens in January.
Defoe’s future has been up in the air in the wake of the Aug. 31 firing of manager Ryan Nelsen and five assistant coaches. The club has also acknowledged turning down a franchise-record transfer offer for the English striker at the closing of the summer transfer window.
And MLSE CEO Tim Leiweke, who brought Defoe to Toronto this season, told a group of Ryerson MBA students last week that he did not expected Defoe to be back next year.
Vanney, however, was far more positive, dismissing the suggestion that Defoe wanted to follow Nelsen out the door — at least this season.
"No, not at all," the new manager said. "Especially speaking to the players who speak to (Defoe) a little more regularly, I don’t think that was it. I think his frustration was from an injury. I think he’s a winner and I think he’s going to come back and help us be successful. I think that’s his mindset.
"Whatever happens after that happens, but I think a player who’s made it to his level is going to want to push forward to try to get into the playoffs and win a championship. It’s a unique league. It’s not a league that someone like Jermain is used to. Right now is the most exciting time of the year and then going into the playoffs.
"You go through the grind of MLS through the summer and the beginning of the year when it’s not a (standings) table and you’re not always watching who’s in first place. Right now is that. We’re really in our playoffs right now to try to get into it (the post-season). This is the exciting time. And I think when he comes back and he feels that and he starts to understand that right now it is about the table and right now it is about getting to the playoffs. I think it gets all that much more exciting and I think a true competitor will take this on."
Defoe is the club’s leading scorer with 11 goals in 16 games despite missing another 11 games through injury or suspension.