Toronto FC welcome back Robert Earnshaw from injury, but status as starter is unclear

TORONTO – With the Seattle Sounders coming to town on Saturday with new Designated Player forward Clint Dempsey in tow, Toronto FC could be buoyed by the return of their own veteran striker to active duty.

After missing TFC’s last three league matches due to a hamstring injury, leading goalscorer Robert Earnshaw has been pronounced fit and ready to go against the Sounders (7 pm ET, watch on MLS Live).

However, whether he starts or comes off the bench has yet to be determined.

“Earnie is still coming back and he is still rusty,” TFC head coach Ryan Nelsen told “He has been out for quite a while now, so we have to be careful with him.”

The Welsh international – who estimates he's "at about 85-90 percent fitness now” – looked lively and dangerous midweek when he used Toronto’s International friendly against Italian side AS Roma as an opportunity to get in some game action ahead of Saturday’s fixture in which TFC will try to extend their current league unbeaten run to four games.

“It felt really good playing against Roma,” Earnshaw said. “It is always feels good to be back playing. When you are out it is not nice to watch the team when you just want to get back playing. The other night was very important for me, just to get 45 minutes in and to get rid of the cobwebs from being out for 2-3 weeks.”

Asked if it will take considerable time to regain his sharpness as a striker after a few weeks off due to his injury, Earnshaw sounded fully confident in his abilities.

“You either have it or you haven’t,” Earnshaw said. “You really just have to be in the right places at the right time and then take your chances. Hopefully I get some minutes tomorrow and get some chances.”

While he looked happy to have Earnshaw back fit, Nelsen was not willing to give up many clues as to what shape his attacking corps will take on Saturday.

“[Andrew] Wiedeman, [Jeremy] Brockie and [Justin] Braun did really well against New England, so there is competition for minutes up there now,” Nelsen said.