A familiar face will return to BMO Field on Wednesday night when Toronto FC hosts Sunderland AFC in a friendly match at 7:00 PM ET.
Jermain Defoe scored 12 goals in all competitions for the Reds last season. When he played he was prolific, but injuries and a longing to return home to England prematurely ended his time in Toronto.
He’s back in the Premier League now and clearly, that’s what he wanted.
“I’d played in the Premier League for the majority of my career,” Defoe told Sunderland’s official website this week.
”I love my football and I wanted to come back. When you step away from the Premier League you really miss it that’s why I wanted to come back.”
There was a major silver lining for TFC supporters. Defoe’s departure resulted in the acquisition of Jozy Altidore and later, though not part of the same deal, Sebastian Giovinco.
Here are three keys for Wednesday's friendly against the Black Cats.
Defoe vs. Altidore
“The game against Toronto is going to be good – I’m looking forward to it. I know a few people don’t understand why I left but for me I just missed the Premier League.”
The above is Defoe’s explanation for wanting to return to England after his first season in Toronto. Comfort is key for all of us, and his replacement has done the job in Defoe’s absence.
Altidore has registered seven goals in 12 appearances with the Reds and his chemistry with Giovinco, the league’s MVP, has been crucial.
“It gives the game an extra dimension with me going back and obviously Jozy Altidore now playing for them,” Defoe continued.
“I’m really looking forward to going back, Toronto is a nice place to visit and I enjoyed living there. It’s a great way to end [Sunderland's preseason] tour with a game like this.”
Minutes For Simonin
It’s been a long time since Clement Simonin suited up for the first team.
The rookie defender played well in his first MLS start back on March 29th in Sandy, Utah. With Damien Perquis injured at that time, Simonin was expected to draw into the lineup the following week in Chicago.
Instead, swelling in his right knee occurred during that flight. Further examinations indicated Simonin required minor surgery.
He’s worked his way back from that ailment, appearing as a substitute for Toronto FC II against Rochester on July 11th. Last Saturday he was on the bench for the Philadelphia match.
With a big test on Saturday in Columbus on the horizon, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Perquis get extra rest with Simonin taking his place as a result. The same goes for Bright Dike, who could draw into the lineup for the first time since the 3-2 loss to the Chicago Fire in early April.
Rotate That Squad
Players will tell you they would much rather play in a game than train and they’ll get the opportunity on Wednesday night against the Black Cats.
Saturday’s league match in Ohio against the Crew is the focus for the club.
“The plan on Wednesday is to get guys some minutes and to get them sharp,” said Greg Vanney.
“We may use the match as a training session for a certain amount of minutes for some of the guys cause a lot of our players would prefer to play games than train all week. The most important thing for us is the match in Columbus this weekend.”
If you’re healthy you will play on Wednesday at some point seems to be the message from Vanney and his staff as they prepare to take on Sunderland.
Mark Bloom saw a specialist last week and will not be available for the friendly.