Ryan Nelsen bemoans Toronto FC's early schedule, defends Jackson, calls his team "underdogs"

TORONTO – Fresh off a win over D.C. United that has staked Toronto FC to an historic 2-0-0 start, head coach Ryan Nelsen is already looking toward the two-game road trip his side will be embarking on, starting with Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday.

“Our start is probably the toughest start of any team in the whole of the league,” Nelsen told reporters at TFC's Kia Training Ground on Tuesday. “The way we started is obviously very pleasing but we’ve got another two away games that are extremely difficult. The one thing I like about these guys is they like it when they’re kind of the underdogs.”

“We’ll go to Salt Lake City with a lot of confidence but aware enough to know that it’s a very good team we’re playing against,” Nelsen said. “[RSL are] one of the best in the league for the past few years. It’ll be a really tough game.”

Nelsen heads into the encounter with a full squad sans Jonathan Osorio, who had a light training session, hampered by tightness in his hamstring due to training and playing on rough surfaces. But the midfielder expects that issue to sort itself out in the coming days.

“What’s killing us at the moment is we go from this artificial field to a different artificial field to BMO Field back to artificial,” Nelsen said. “We’re never playing, passing or using a consistent surface. It’s very hard on your body.”

Nelsen might also be without Brazilian winger Jackson, who he fears may be suspended for elbowing Davy Arnaud in Toronto’s 1-0 win over D.C.

“Yeah, I think [the MLS Disciplinary Committee is] looking into it and we’ll probably hear back pretty soon. But I would say, as a guess, he probably might get a suspension,” Nelsen said. “I felt really bad for him, because he was getting pushed and shoved, but he shouldn’t have retaliated. But I can understand it.”

Jackson has a history of disciplinary problems from his days at FC Dallas, but Nelsen dismissed that past, noting he’d “rather have guys who want to win than having little sheep out there.”

Said the second-year head coach: “There’s a fire in Jackson that I really like and he brings a lot of energy to this club.”

In Toronto’s last game, Jermain Defoe started alongside Gilberto, and while that combination should be on display at Rio Tinto Stadium, Gilberto may not be playing for the full 90 minutes.

“He’s not 100 percent, won’t be 100 percent for a good four, five games,” Nelsen said. “All the other guys have had a bit of preseason but Gilberto hasn’t. We need to get him up to speed fitness-wise, and obviously just give him minutes on the ball.”

Finally, Nelsen spoke about Michael Bradley’s head-to-head collision with Arnaud that left him with a bleeding cut on his head that required 13 staples to close.

“It’s just a cut,” Nelsen said. “If he had some hair it wouldn’t have even been cut, it would just be a bruise!”

Would Bradley be open to growing out his hair to prevent injuries like those?

“Nope,” Bradley told MLSsoccer.com. “I’ll be shaving it again soon.” 

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