TORONTO – Ryan Nelsen’s new-look Toronto FC side suffered its first defeat of the season at the hands of Real Salt Lake, the 3-0 loss made worse by the unexpected exit of Jermain Defoe on the hour mark.
The English forward headed straight for the dressing rooms after being subbed off and looked to be holding the back of his left leg. Nelsen confirmed the fear of a hamstring injury while speaking to reporters after the match.
“He was feeling the hamstring before the game and it tightened up,” Nelsen said via conference call. “Hopefully it’s not too bad. He was feeling tight from the start and you could just see it in his movement, he was guarding it. I think it was best to just get him off and make sure he’s all right.”
This isn’t the first time Defoe has had issues with his hamstring this year. Before making his move to Toronto FC, Defoe had a hamstring injury at Tottenham Hotspur. Has that same injury come back once more?
“I’m not sure to tell you the truth,” Nelsen said. “I haven’t really sat down and spoken to him, but I don’t think it’s the same [injury]. But we’ll see, we’ll monitor him and hopefully he’ll be all right soon.”
As for the match itself, Nelsen said the penalty given to Alvaro Saborío was a “very questionable decision,” and added that the field was “very bad,” but stressed that his side needed to do more early on.
“It was an uncharacteristic start for us,” Nelsen said. We didn’t really come out of the blocks very well. We weren’t focused enough from the start. The goals that we conceded were pretty soft. We have a lot to improve on and a lot to get better.”
Toronto FC were once again outpossessed by their opposition, with Real Salt Lake controlling the ball for more than 60 percent of the game. Nelsen was not focusing on that statistic, though.
“What I see is 15 attempts on goal, which is just as many as they had,” Nelsen said.
Despite the loss, the Toronto FC head coach sees the silver lining in the standings for his still-growing side.
“If you’d given me six points after the first three games that we had, considering the opposition and where we had to go, I would have taken it in a heartbeat,” Nelsen said. “Considering that Real Salt Lake has been together for years and we’ve been together for minutes, especially with six points after three games, I’m absolutely delighted.”
Another Toronto FC player absent from the match with injury was Jonathan Osorio, who didn’t travel with the team. Nelsen said Osorio will miss the team’s next match against the Columbus Crew and could be out for a couple weeks.
Toronto take on the Crew on April 5 in Ohio at Columbus Crew Stadium.