The good news for Toronto FC is that Michael Bradley is on the mend and could see action this weekend. The bad news is that Jermain Defoe is farther away from returning.
Defoe continues to nurse a nagging hamstring injury and will miss his third consecutive match on Saturday when Toronto FC visits FC Dallas. Coach Ryan Nelsen said he expects to have Defoe, who leads the club in scoring with three goals, back for the Reds’ home game on May 3 versus the New England Revolution.
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Also ruled out for Saturday’s contest in Texas are winger Alvaro Rey (hamstring), defender Doneil Henry (knee) and forward Dwayne De Rosario (leg). Midfielder Jeremy Hall (Achilles) likely won’t make the trip.
But Nelsen did confirm that midfielder Jonathon Osorio, who has missed the last three contests with a hamstring injury, is fit to play and will travel to Dallas.
“Jonathan’s progressed really well so he should be in the (starting lineup),” Nelsen told reporters after Thursday’s practice.
As for Bradley, the influential American participated in light training on Thursday and might be available for Saturday. Bradley sat out last week’s 1-0 home loss to the Colorado Rapids with groin and quadriceps strains. Nelsen said Bradley is progressing “really well,” and the club’s trainers will evaluate him on Friday morning before determining whether or not he’ll be on the plane to Dallas in the afternoon.
“We’ll see how he feels tomorrow. Twenty four hours is a long time with these kinds of injuries. If there’s no negative feedback from what he’s done today then hopefully I’ll be close to making that decision,” Nelsen said.
If Bradley can’t play, captain Steven Caldwell feels TFC will particularly miss the American’s creativity and ability to launch attacks from central midfield.
“He’s an absolutely outstanding player, and it would be very difficult for any team to lose Michael,” Caldwell said. “We do have to play a little bit different [without him]. He’s so comfortable on the ball that we get it to him and he can start plays off offensively.”
Defoe and Bradley were not made available to speak to the media after Thursday’s practice.
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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.
“That’s why you have squads, and that’s why there’s no excuses from our end. Whoever is put out there has to perform and try to win games,” Nelsen said.
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.
“It’ll be arguably one of our toughest challenges so far this season,” Nelsen said of Saturday’s game in Dallas. “It’s a real good challenge for us to see where we’re at,”
He later added: “They have a lot of speed out wide, and experience in that central midfield with [Hendry] Thomas and [Adam] Moffat. At home they’re a very tough team to play against.”
Saturday marks Jackson’s first game back in Dallas since being traded by the Texas club to TFC in the off-season.
“I’m happy to go back and play against my old team. I’m excited to go there and play the game, but I’m with Toronto now and I want to go there and do my best,” Jackson told reporters through an interpreter.
“I spent three years at [FC Dallas] but I didn’t feel like I was growing any more at that club, so I had a conversation with my wife and thought it was time for a new opportunity to come to Toronto.”