VANCOUVER – The good news for Toronto FC is that Jermain Defoe is staying put. The bad news is Michael Bradley will be leaving this week for World Cup duty.
Despite being named as an alternate on England’s World Cup team, Defoe won’t be joining his English teammates in Portugal as part of the Three Lions’ training camp which kicks off on May 19. Instead, Defoe will remain with TFC and will only head over to the England camp if there is an injury to another player.
That’s a big reprieve for the Reds who thought they might lose their top scorer for a number of games, even though he didn’t make England’s 23-man World Cup roster. Defoe has three goals in four Major League Soccer games for Toronto, and scored in the Reds’ 2-1 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps in last week’s opening game of the Amway Canadian Championship semifinals. He’ll likely see action in Wednesday’s return leg in Vancouver.
Wednesday programming alert: Watch Montreal Impact vs. FC Edmonton (on Sportsnet ONE, 7:30 pm ET) and Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Toronto FC (on Sportsnet Ontario and Pacific, Sportsnet ONE and Sportsnet World, 10:30 pm ET) in the second leg of the Amway Canadian Championship semifinals. | TV schedule
“At the end of the day I want to be here and help the team to get results. That’s my main focus at the moment. You never know—people get injured but at the same time if (making the World Cup squad) doesn’t happen then it doesn’t happen,” Defoe told reporters on Tuesday after TFC’s practice in Vancouver.
With 19 goals in 55 appearances for his country, Defoe, 31, admitted he was “shocked” that England manager Roy Hodgson didn’t name him to his World Cup roster. But the former Spurs striker said he doesn’t plan to retire from the national team.
“I’m not going to retire just because (Hodgson) didn’t put me in the squad. I still feel like I have a lot to offer. … I think my record speaks for itself, and I’ll just try to continue to work hard and enjoy my football,” Defoe said.
Toronto coach Ryan Nelsen said he was “devastated” for Defoe.
“It’s surprising. I know Roy Hodgson picks the team, but it’s a surprising decision. … If there are 10 or 15 minutes left in a World Cup game, I know who’d I want with the ball at their feet in front of the net,” Nelsen said of Defoe.
At the same time, Defoe’s World Cup omission is a hugely beneficial for TFC, as they’ll retain the services of one of the top scorers in MLS.
“You never like to take (joy) from other people’s agony. But yeah, Jermain will stay with us and he’s probably going to be extremely motivated to prove a lot of people wrong, which is nice for us,” Nelsen explained.
Wednesday’s Amway second leg in Vancouver will be Bradley’s last game for the Reds before he leaves to join the U.S. national team for its training camp. There was a hope that Bradley might stick around for Saturday’s MLS home game against the New York Red Bulls. But the influential midfielder will leave TFC after Wednesday’s contest and join the American squad’s training camp in California.
Bradley will miss at least five MLS games while away on World Cup duty—more if the U.S. progresses beyond the group stage. If the Americans don’t make it out of the first round, Bradley’s first match back for TFC could be on July 2 versus the Chicago Fire.
“On a personal level, it’s really frustrating to miss games. I hate to miss any game. But there is a silver lining in that when I return from the World Cup that’s when the bulk of our season comes. Those are going to be the games that make or break us,” Bradley said.
Nelsen confirmed that TFC has recalled midfielder Daniel Lovitz, who has been on loan at the Wilmington Hammerheads of the USL. Selected 24th overall in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft, Lovitz, 22, has a goal and an assist through five USL games this season, and Nelsen said the youngster could expect to see action with Bradley away on national team duty.
“He’s played very well down in Wilmington, and he’s progressed really well. We want to have a good look for four to six weeks, and hopefully he can help us out,” Nelsen said.
NOTES: Former Aston Villa forward Luke Moore, acquired by TFC in a trade from the Colorado Rapids last week, will be available for selection against the Whitecaps. Look for him to partner Gilberto up front against Vancouver… Canadian midfielder Jonathon Osorio, who missed the first leg because of injury, is fully fit and is expected to start on Wednesday alongside Bradley, Kyle Bekker and Issey Nakajima-Farran… Backup goalkeeper Joe Bendik will start in goal… Look for Toronto to field a back line consisting of left back Ashtone Morgan, Doneil Henry and Bradley Orr in the middle, and Nick Hagglund at right back… Winger Alvaro Rey (hamstring) and Jeremy Hall (Achilles) are both injured and won’t play…
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