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Eastern Conference Championship

Ryan Nelsen believes Toronto FC can still make run to playoffs: "Thank God the East's the way it is"

TORONTO – Toronto FC currently sit in ninth place in the Eastern Conference with seven points from 12 matches and are 11 points behind a Philadelphia squad that they will face on Saturday and who currently occupy the fifth and final playoff spot in the East.

TFC are also on a five-game losing streak and had their winless streak extended to 10 games in their last match, a 2-0 loss to the New England Revolution.

That’s the glass half-empty view. However, for Toronto FC head coach Ryan Nelsen, the glass half-full view is that his side is fully within striking distance of getting back into the mix for a playoff spot in a volatile Eastern Conference.

“Obviously Saturday’s match against Philadelphia is a really important game,” Nelsen told reporters on Friday. “We know the importance of it. Thank God the East is the way that it is and that we still have a shot. We have to go on a run at some stage.”

“With this league, if you win two or three in a row, the whole situation changes,” Nelsen added. “The players know that and the coaching staff knows that.”

READ: TFC's Nelsen promises summer signing, progress made on Earnshaw deal

Over the last couple of weeks, Saturday’s fixture against the Union (6 pm ET, TSN in Canada/watch on MLS Live in US) has been highlighted. It is the game that Designated Player Danny Koevermans has targeted as his return following a long absence due to an ACL injury. The Dutchman’s prodigious scoring was a major part of Toronto's best form in 2012, so his imminent return is likely coming at just the right time for a club that is approaching a now-or-never point with respect to a possible postseason qualification in 2013.

“Danny looks like he should be all right to go after a bit of a scare,” Nelsen said. “That will be a big boost for everybody. We know how dangerous Danny can be, so we are really looking forward to having him being part of the squad.”

In addition to being buoyed by the return of Koevermans, Nelsen also admitted that he was also seeing some light at the end of tunnel with respect to the injury woes that have plagued TFC during the first three months of the season.

READ: TFC quartet named to Canada's preliminary Gold Cup roster

“The injury situation is getting better,” Nelsen said. “Logan [Emory], Justin [Braun] and Richard [Eckersley] are out. Darel Russell is back and Terry Dunfield is now available for selection.  Stefan [Frei] is injured but should be back next week.”

“I don’t like to use injuries as an excuse because every team has them, but I think those games that we should have won were matches in which they probably hurt us.”

Ultimately, Nelsen sees Toronto as a club that still controls its own playoff destiny and one that has plenty of positives to draw confidence from as it aims to turn the tide, begin winning matches, and gain competitive ground in the East.

“We have to take confidence from the fact that we have been in every game and that it just takes one turn and then you can get on a run and all of sudden this league changes quickly,” Nelsen stated.