Toronto FC’s head coach is gone and their playoff chances are suddenly under siege, but at least they’ll have Jermain Defoe to stick around for the fight.
The Toronto Sun reported Monday that the club turned down several offers to deal the prized striker and team’s leading scorer, choosing instead to keep Defoe as the Reds attempt to make the MLS postseason for the first time in franchise history.
"When we made a decision to go big and build a club, there are certain environments that come with that," MLSE president and CEO Tim Leiweke told the Sun. "When you get around transfer window days you anticipate good and bad.
"Obviously the bids that were most intense were for Jermain Defoe," Leiweke said. "We're not interested in him going anywhere. People spin this stuff based on their end goals. There was spinning."
Leiweke told the Sun that three teams approached TFC about dealing for Defoe, 31, who has scored 11 goals for the club in his first season in MLS. Although Leiweke did not reveal which clubs were interested, the hottest rumors on Monday revolved around English Premier League sides Arsenal, Leicester City and Queens Park Rangers.
Defoe enjoyed a solid start to the season with the Reds and was among the league’s leading scorers for much of the spring, but injures have slowed his pace this summer. He’s battled both hamstring and groin issues and appeared in just two of the team’s past seven matches, most recently a 77-minute shift against Chicago on Aug. 23 that ended with Reds head coach Ryan Nelsen telling reporters Defoe’s movement was extremely limited.
The Reds are hopeful Defoe can return for the team’s Sept. 6 match against the Philadelphia Union, but Nelsen reports out of Toronto indicate he might not return until the end of the month.
Nelsen, meanwhile, was let go by the club on Sunday, less than 24 hours after the Reds’ humbling 3-0 loss to the New England Revolution at BMO Field. The Reds are currently in fourth place in the Eastern Conference, two points clear of the final playoff spot.