Toronto FC might have to make do without their two star designated players for a second consecutive week.
TFC coach Ryan Nelsen was non-committal about whether or not top scorer Jermain Defoe (hamstring) and influential midfielder Michael Bradley (groin and quadriceps) will be fit to play in Saturday’s road game versus FC Dallas.
“It’s Tuesday. We still have a long way to go,” Nelsen told reporters after practice. “It’s too early to make any predictions at the moment.”
Soccer Central podcast: SPORTSNET.CA’s Soccer Central podcast, hosted by John Molinaro and James Sharman, takes an in-depth look at the beautiful game and offers timely and thoughtful analysis on the sport’s biggest issues. To listen and subscribe to the podcast, CLICK HERE.
Defoe has sat out TFC’s last two matches after picking up a hamstring injury in the second half of the Reds’ third game of the Major League Soccer season, a 3-0 road loss to Real Salt Lake on March 29. He scored all three of Toronto’s goals in its first two outings, wins over Seattle Sounders and the home opener versus D.C. United.
Bradley scored the opening goal in Toronto’s 2-0 road win over the Columbus Crew on April 5, but missed this past weekend’s game, a 1-0 home loss to the Colorado Rapids.
Also on Tuesday, Nelsen confirmed that midfielder Dwayne De Rosario—who is suffering from a “deep leg knock,” according to the TFC head coach—and defender Doneil Henry (knee) will not be available to play against Dallas. De Rosario picked up the injury in Saturday’s loss to Colorado, while Henry has been sidelined for TFC’s last two games.
Midfielder Jonathan Osorio, who has missed the last three contests with a hamstring injury, is showing improvement, but is questionable for Saturday, as is winger Alvaro Rey (hamstring).
“[Osorio] is progressing really well. But again, we’re being very cautious with these guys,” Nelsen said, adding that Henry is probably a little more than a week away from returning as he’s not back running yet.
None of the aforementioned injured players trained with the team on Tuesday. Instead, most of them worked out on their own.
"It felt good running today," Defoe was overheard saying as he left TFC’s training facility after practice.
Even though he’s had to juggle his lineup the past few weeks due to the rash of injury problems, Nelsen maintains he won’t rush anybody back until they are 100 percent healthy.
"We have to really knuckle down. It’s a really important time just to get everybody fit," Nelsen said. "We have four home games out of five after Dallas, so we want everybody fit for that."
And even with the injuries to key starters, the Reds have managed to win three of their five opening games and collect nine of a possible 15 points, their best-ever start to a season.
“Even if we had everyone fit it was always going to be difficult; our first six games of the season with so many new players," Nelsen admitted.
“What it’s shown is that we can compete against the very best in this league even when we don’t have certain players available.”
Dallas currently sits first in the Western Conference with a 4-1-1 record, but is coming off a 3-2 home loss to the Seattle Sounders. TFC is 1-6-5 all-time against Dallas. The last meeting between these two clubs ended in a 2-2 draw on April 6, 2013 at BMO Field.
“Dallas is a game we want to win and we expect to win. We’ve travelled very well so far,” Nelsen said.
After Saturday’s game in Dallas, Toronto FC hosts the New England Revolution on May 3.