By CARL SETTERLUND
Toronto FC are currently on the outside looking in when it comes to the Eastern Conference playoff picture, but they could soon get just the boost they’ve needed.
Jermain Defoe is back in Toronto after having returned to England to receive treatment on a groin injury and torn adductor muscle.
Defoe said he has begun light training and hopes to return to full training on Monday. That rules him out for Saturday’s match against the Portland Timbers, but he could be in line to return for an important tilt against the LA Galaxy at the StubHub Center the following weekend.
“My groin feels good,” Defoe said. “I ran (Tuesday) which was the second time (and) there was no reaction today which was important.”
Toronto FC are currently three points back of the fifth-place Columbus Crew, but have a game in hand over the current Eastern Conference playoff teams with six matches still remaining.
The 31-year-old forward hasn’t played since Aug. 23, during which time Toronto FC has gone 1-3-1. In the meantime, they’ve also changed coaches from Ryan Nelsen to Greg Vanney.
“Every game is a Cup final now,” Defoe said on Wednesday. “(These are) games that we have to win and it’s not going to be easy. I think if you want to achieve anything special there comes a moment like this where you know everyone has to stick together and you have to give everything.”
Here are some other notes from around MLS:
SOUNDERS KEEN TO SIGN TOP HOMEGROWN PROSPECT MORRIS
Stanford University sophomore and former Seattle Sounders academy star Jordan Morris already has a U.S. Men’s National Team camp under his belt, which led many to speculate that he could be in line to skip MLS altogether in search of European glory.
“I expect to see him in a Sounders uniform pretty soon,” Henderson said in a radio interview. “We’ll see how that plays out. We’re excited that he’s one of our players and that he’s done so well.”
The Sounders’ visibility and success in grooming other young players such as DeAndre Yedlin could prove meaningful to the young attacker Morris.
“It’s a little bit like DeAndre’s story where things have come really fast for him from a couple years ago being an academy player for the Sounders,” Henderson said. “I think there’s more of that to come.”
INJURY-PLAGUED ZAKUANI LIKELY DONE FOR SEASON
The once-promising career of former No. 1 overall pick Steve Zakuani continues to stall, as Portland Timbers coach Caleb Porter said on Wednesday that a recent groin injury will likely end his season.
“We’re probably going to end up shutting him down and figure out the next steps with him and his body,” Porter said.
The 26-year-old Zakuani last played on Aug. 24 as a substitute during a 4-2 loss to his former team Seattle. He has made 17 appearances this season and nine starts, contributing three assists.
“I don’t know if it’s biomechanics or what, but he continues to have problems with muscle strains,” said Porter, who previously coached Zakuani during his college days at Akron. “I think it stems ultimately from that broken leg (suffered in 2011).”
PONTIUS AND JOHNSON READY TO OFFER D.C. UNITED BOOST IN MLS
Resurgent D.C. United have an MLS Cup appearance on their mind, and they’ve gained some reinforcements with the return of Chris Pontius and Eddie Johnson on Wednesday.
Both former starters scored in D.C. United’s 2-0 victory over Tauro of Panama on Wednesday night in CONCACAF Champions League action, and they appear ready for the MLS return as well.
“It was great to see [Chris] back, and Eddie as well,” D.C. United coach Ben Olsen said. “They shared minutes, and they both put on very good performances and led the line well.”
Pontius went 53 minutes, receiving his first start since 2013 after a major injury to his left hamstring, while Johnson had been out recently with post-concussion symptoms.
“Right now, my role is to push the people in front of me,” Pontius said. “It’s not my spot right now. I’ve got to work my way back into the lineup. The guys that are sitting ahead of me have done a great job this year, obviously, and that’s why we’re in the position that we’re in.”
MAPP SET TO MAKE IMPACT RETURN, BUT BERNIER STILL OUT
The Montreal Impact have announced some good news and some bad news.
Fresh off of the New York Red Bulls handing them a Group 3 victory in the CONCACAF Champions League, the Impact got another boost with the return of Justin Mapp to training on Wednesday.
Although Mapp is a no-go for Saturday, Impact coach Frank Klopas expects him back the week after.
“He’s been out for a while, but it was good to have him back, no setbacks” Klopas said. “We’ve just got to keep pushing with him, but the likelihood is he’ll probably be available for Chicago.”
Alternatively, Klopas had no such good news relating to captain Patrice Bernier, who injured himself in a recent Canadian National Team game and remains out with plantar fasciitis.
RAPIDS COULD SEE RETURN OF BUDDLE, SANCHEZ ON SATURDAY
Colorado Rapids coach Pablo Mastroeni reports that his side could see the return of two veterans, forward Edson Buddle and midfielder Vicente Sánchez, in time for Saturday’s home match against the San Jose Earthquakes.
“They’re working towards fitness. At this point, (we’ve) got to have able bodies. For me, it’s just got to get to the point where they’re not in and out,” Mastroeni said.
Both aging players have struggled for health this season and are currently dealing with leg injuries.
Think Defoe returns to action vs. the Galaxy or is it too soon? Do you see Morris signing with the Sounders or going to Europe? How disappointed are you to hear that Zakuani is likely done for the rest of the season?
Share your thoughts below.