TORONTO – After only five games with Toronto FC, forward Bright Dike is one of the few bright spots who can feel relatively secure in his spot for next season.
What role he plays, however, is still up for debate.
Toronto FC brass have made no secret of their desire to bring in two Designated Player strikers next season, and head coach Ryan Nelsen has spoken glowingly of the potential inherent in bringing a quick, physical forward like Dike off the bench in the second half of games to face tired opposition. Dike, not surprisingly, intends to win a starting spot.
"I don't think you are a professional if you say that you don't want to start," Dike told MLSsoccer.com. "As a professional, I want to start as many games as possible. But whatever role Ryan has in mind for me, I'm going to work my hardest to claim that role and really just give my best effort and make myself a regular as much as possible."
Whether starting or coming off the bench (five of his seven MLS goals have come as a starter), Dike said he has been buoyed by the confidence shown in him by Nelsen in his first month with Toronto.
"That's all you can hope for in a coach: that he believes in you and instills confidence in you," Dike said. "You just want to pay that coach back and reward the kindess toward you. I feel indebted to him, and I want to do well for him."
Now in his third professional season out of Notre Dame, the Oklahoma City native has used multiple loan stints to USL PRO to accelerate his development, and he earned a call-up to the Nigerian national team – for which he is eligible through his parents – last November. He said he feels a constant need to keep improving to reach his full potential.
"I think I am capable of so much more than what you have seen," Dike explained. "Something I regularly look at is how much better I am compared to a month ago. I'm always evaluating myself and trying to make sure that I am getting better in every way."
Dike said one way he seeks improvement is by keeping an eye on top-level forwards from around the world who play with a similar style, including one world-class striker who was something of a late bloomer himself: Didier Drogba, who moved to Olympique de Marseille at the age of 25.
"I would say that two players who have a similar body type and forward style to me are Didier Drogba and Karim Benzema," Dike said. "Those are the kinds of players that I watch to emulate a little bit more."