Jermain Defoe's presence would be very much welcomed by a team that has just two wins in its last eight games. His return could very well happen Saturday against the Los Angeles Galaxy.
The star striker is expected to play in the critical road game. It would be his first appearance since going down with a groin injury six weeks ago.
"He looks good, he's into full training now and this is his second day of being into full training so he's just continuing the progression into match form," coach Greg Vanney said this week prior to the team's trip to LA. "He'll be with us on the weekend and we'll see how much time we can get him ultimately."
As a result of suspension and injuries, Defoe has been limited to 16 games but he still leads the team with 11 goals.
Defoe left in the second half of a 2-2 draw with Chicago on Aug. 23 after aggravating the groin injury, which kept him out of action earlier that month.
"I think getting Jermain back is another boost of confidence for the group," Vanney said. "He's a player who doesn't need many chances to score goals. He's very quick, he's shifty, he's very difficult to deal with. He's one of our guys that you can't really just put one guy on him, if you put one guy around him, you're going to be in trouble.
"That forces two and three guys to pay attention to him, which then also frees up other players."
In the last month and a half, Toronto (11-11-7) has gone from looking at the possibility of catching Sporting KC for top spot in the Eastern Conference to nearing must-win territory to qualify for the post-season.
Since Aug. 16, Toronto is 2-4-2 and has dropped outside the playoff picture, trailing the fifth-place New York Red Bulls by a point.
"I do think if we win three matches, then we will get in just because of the way the league is set up," Vanney said of the final five games. "All the Eastern Conference teams are sort of playing each other so nobody can take maximum points from each other. Everybody is beating somebody or there's draws and either way we'll take that as long as we win our games.
"I think if we get three wins, we essentially assure ourselves a spot. We'll take more than that if given the opportunity. We'll take some draws in there, but I think if we get nine (points), we'll be in good shape."
Saturday's match begins a stretch of three games in a week for Toronto, which will play host to Houston next Wednesday before travelling to New York Oct. 11.
A trip to Los Angeles also provides one last chance for Toronto defender Michael Bradley to square off against his countryman Landon Donovan. The Galaxy star has announced he will retire at the end of the MLS season.
"He's done so much for the national team, for the Galaxy, for MLS — I think we're all seeing even now what a good player he is and how he can still make such a difference in any team that he's on," Bradley said. "Preparing for Saturday, we certainly understand that's part of us going there and getting a result is making the game very difficult for him."
Toronto will look to build off back-to-back wins over Chivas USA and the Portland Timbers while the Galaxy are coming off a 4-0 victory over the Red Bulls on Sunday.
L.A. (16-5-9) is tied for first place in the Western Conference with the Seattle Sounders at 57 points. Robbie Keane leads the team in goals (17) while Donovan leads the Galaxy with 18 assists.
"When you play against good teams, when you play against good teams away from home, it's important that we — to start with — have the mentality that we're going to make the game difficult for them," said Bradley. "We know the way they play, as the game wears on things will open up and we'll have our chances.
"It's important to just be able to read the game and understand what it gives you."
The two teams last met on March 30, 2013 playing to a 2-2 draw at BMO Field. Saturday marks the lone meeting of the season between the two sides.
Toronto is 2-4-6 all-time against L.A.
Note: Canada Soccer announced Friday that four members of Toronto FC have been added to the men's national team for the Oct. 14 friendly against Colombia. Goalkeeper Quillan Roberts, defender Doneil Henry, and midfielders Kyle Bekker and Manuel Aparicio were on coach Benito Floro's 23-man roster.Suggest a correction