TORONTO – Bright Dike is heading into the 2014 season with one goal in mind.
“I want to really establish myself,” the Toronto FC forward told MLSsoccer.com during the team’s media day. “I want to have a breakout year this year.”
The urgency in Dike’s voice is clear and it’s justified. There is a great deal riding on the 2014 campaign for the 27-year-old, with the dream of playing in Brazil at the World Cup for Nigeria still very much within his grasp.
“[I’ve had] a lot, a lot of work,” Dike said. “It wasn’t really an offseason for me, I got a couple practices abroad [with Celtic], I was with Nigeria most of the offseason so it was definitely a good offseason for me.”
The hulking Toronto forward earned his second cap with Nigeria in November, scoring in a friendly against Italy in London at Craven Cottage in a 2-2 result. That goal gives Dike hope for a chance at the big show in Brazil, since Dike says Nigeria head coach Stephen Keshi was pleased with his performance against Italy. And, he's hoping it will carry through into the coming season with TFC.
”I was fortunate enough to get my first official goal against Italy so that brings great confidence going into this season,” Dike said. “[Keshi] said the last camp went well for me and hopefully I keep getting called up and eventually make the team for the World Cup."
If he’s going to have a realistic shot, Dike is going to have to log more than the five starts and one goal he scored in 2013, his first action after returning from a torn left ACL suffered in the 2013 preseason.
But the competition for playing time at the striker position in Toronto just got considerably tougher with the recent acquisitions of Designated Players Gilberto and Jermain Defoe, the latter of whom is also hoping for a role at the World Cup with England.
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“You know, Defoe is a world-class player and any time you play alongside a player like that, it’s a good person to pick his brain and learn from,” he said. “I’m looking forward to that.”
So far, Dike is off to a fine start in preseason, scoring against D.C. United in a practice match in Florida. Will it be enough to get him on the plane to Brazil? At this point, it will be his play with Toronto that will ultimately make the case.
“All you can do is keep playing your best and make sure you’re getting better every day," Dike said.