- Our Town
Defoe's loss could be Toronto FC's gain
By Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press
VANCOUVER - Toronto FC head coach Ryan Nelsen was surprised to see star striker Jermain Defoe left off England's 23-man World Cup squad, but he knows that snub could pay dividends in the long run for their Major League Soccer outfit.
Defoe failed to make England manager Roy Hodgson's team announced Monday, instead being named to a seven-man standby list that will only be used in the event of injuries in the leadup to the tournament in Brazil.
The 31-year-old Defoe is healthy, scoring goals in MLS and could well take out his frustration at being left out by Hodgson on opponents in North America.
"You never like to take benefit from other people's agony, if you know what I mean," Nelsen said Tuesday. "If Jermain stays with us, he's probably going to be motivated to prove a lot of people wrong, which I suppose is nice for us."
That could come as early as Wednesday night when Toronto FC visits the Vancouver Whitecaps in the second leg of the Amway Canadian Championship semifinal. Toronto holds a 2-1 lead after a victory at home in the first leg last week.
Even though it's a boost for his team, Nelsen also couldn't hide his disappointment.
"Obviously devastated for Jermain. It's surprising," he said. "I don't know how Roy Hodgson picks his team. It's a surprising decision — gutted for the man. I know I've played against all those guys and I know with 10, 15 minutes to go in a World Cup, I know who I'd want with the ball at his feet in front of the net."
Defoe said he was stunned not to be heading to Brazil after figuring into all but two of Hodgson's matchday squads prior to this announcement.
"I was shocked, like you can imagine," Defoe said after training at B.C. Place Stadium. "Especially when you've been involved in every squad, and then for some reason you're not included. But (I) always remain positive and just continue doing what I'm doing. I've come over here and done exactly what I used to do at home and that's play well and score goals."
A veteran of the 2010 World Cup who has scored 19 times in 55 games for his country, Defoe added that he didn't think his move from the English Premier League to MLS had anything to do with Hodgson's decision.
"I've been here two months. Does it really change much? I don't think so," he said. "I mentioned before the squad was announced that the manager, he knows most of the players, even before he was manager. He knows the players. I think the fact of me being here two months, that shouldn't play a factor at all."
England is bringing four strikers to the World Cup, including Wayne Rooney, Daniel Sturridge, Danny Welbeck and Rickie Lambert.
Defoe said that despite this disappointment, he will remain available for England selection.
"I'm not going to retire (from the national team) just because someone doesn't put me in a squad," he said. "I would never do that. I would never turn my back on my country because I still feel like I've got a lot to offer. The games I've played and just being involved with England over the years, it's been great.
"I think my record speaks for itself and I'll just try and continue to work hard and enjoy my football."
Defoe will remain with Toronto FC and only join up with England if called upon. He added that Hodgson told him: "He wants to go with the young kids. That's it."
Toronto midfielder Michael Bradley, who was named to the U.S. 30-man provisional roster and will leave to meet up with the American camp after Wednesday's game in Vancouver, said he was disappointed for his club teammate.
"He and I have developed a really good relationship since we've come (to Toronto), both on the field and off the field," said Bradley, who along with Defoe, joined Toronto FC in a big-money off-season deal. "I've seen first-hand what a great player he is, what a great person he is and I know how much it meant to him, so on a personal level I know we're all really disappointed for him.
"He's taken it exactly how you'd expect — committed and ready to keep going, keep fighting, keep scoring goals here and do as much as he can to help us win in Toronto."
With about a month to go before the World Cup, Defoe said he will continue to work hard in MLS and see what happens.
"It's still a long way to go. You never know what happens, people get injured, but at the same time if it doesn't happen, then it doesn't happen," he said. "I wish the team good luck, all the young players that are in the squad, I wish them good luck because I've had that experience, been at a World Cup, and it's the best feeling ever. It's special."