Earnshaw and Dike
USA Today Sports

Toronto FC could start Bright Dike, Robert Earnshaw together for first time vs. Philadelphia Union

TORONTO – In a season in which Toronto FC have often struggled to find the right combination up top, their most dangerous pairing yet could be on tap for the club’s final three league matches.

With recently acquired striker Bright Dike coming off his second start with Toronto and his first goal scored for his new club in last weekend's 4-1 victory over D.C. United, head coach Ryan Nelsen’s squad has been further buoyed with the return to fitness of the team’s leading scorer, veteran striker Robert Earnshaw.

Nelsen is looking forward to seeing how the two complement each other in the few matches that remain for TFC, beginning with Saturday's road game against Philadelphia (7:30 pm ET, TSN2, MLS LIVE).

“Due to injuries and all sorts of things, we’ve never had a kind of settled pairing,” Nelsen said. “Bright and Earnshaw or Bright and [Andrew] Wiedeman, they are just different pairings. You try and look at the balance with each player having different strengths and weaknesses.”

Although Earnshaw is older by only six years, Dike said he is looking forward to playing alongside and learning from a forward partner with such considerable experience,

“You cherish the chance to play with clever players, and that is exactly what he is," Dike said. "We can link up and play off of each other. We’re both quick, so there will be a bunch of different options that defenders will have trouble with. When you have played at such a high level as Robert has, that is a person that you can learn from.”

Earnshaw emphasized that the pair has had limited training time together, but he hopes to take advantage of space created by Dike.

“I’ve really just trained with Bright this week,” Earnshaw said. “Hopefully we can get a good combination going and we can do well together. He is handful, and he is a big guy who puts himself around, which sometimes complements me as a smaller guy.”

Given that Toronto only have three games remaining, Dike and Earnshaw will not have a lot of time to build chemistry before the end of the season. Therefore, one of the main keys to Saturday’s fixture against the Union will be how quickly the two players can find a comfort zone with each other.

“It is one of those things that can click right away or it can take some time and eventually be wonderful,” Dike said. “You just believe in it, and you keep helping each other out in trying to understand each other.”

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