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Gilberto says fellow TFC striker Jermain Defoe has to earn starting spot

09/26/2014 02:10 EDT | Updated 11/26/2014 05:59 EST
TORONTO - Brazilian forward Gilberto says English star Jermain Defoe will have to win back his starting position with Toronto FC.

Defoe returned to the club this week after nursing a groin injury in England. He is not expected to play until Oct. 4 in Los Angeles against the Galaxy at the earliest.

Asked if he and Defoe had developed a good rapport on the field earlier in the season, Gilberto said the relationship between the two forwards had always been good.

He then talked up the team attack in Defoe's absence.

"Our strikers have been playing well, Luke (Moore) has been playing well since Defoe's been gone, for about four to six weeks," he said Friday through an interpreter. "So it's kind of like Defoe has to win his spot back on the team because our strikers are playing really well now. We've got other guys that are training really hard and fighting and Defoe's got to start training hard now and working to get back into game shape."

Defoe leads the team with 11 goals in 16 games. Gilbert has seven in 24 outings while Moore has six in 21 games.

Toronto coach Greg Vanney says Defoe has been working out on alternate days, with sessions followed by a recovery day.

"His work days have been pretty heavy in terms of change of directions, sprinting. He's starting to do real soccer movements and starting to get some touches on the ball ... Our intention is to have him in full training by next week."

Vanney said the team will work him gradually into team training sessions.

"As long as he is feeling confident and he's not having any reaction, then we just need to keep going through our back-to-sport protocols."

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