The striker has been named to England's standby list for the upcoming World Cup, meaning he will not attend the tournament without other players getting injured.The question of who is going to replace Jermain Defoe in Toronto FC's lineup during the World Cup has been answered.
It'll be Jermain Defoe. Sort of.
The 31-year-old striker was left off England's 23-man squad for Brazil 2014, instead being placed on the standby list. That effectively rules him out of travelling to South America in June unless a rash of injuries overcomes Roy Hodgson's chosen attackers, but he's still likely to miss up to three games for TFC while in England training camp.
And while his exclusion from the active England roster is a blow for Defoe, for TFC the news could only have been better if he was left off the standby list as well. While Ryan Nelsen will never admit it publicly, losing Defoe to the World Cup -- for up to seven MLS matches depending on England's success at the tournament -- would have been a massive blow for TFC during a crucial time in the schedule.
The sobering reality is that, despite spending tens of millions over the offseason in the most ambitious roster overhaul in MLS history, Toronto still suffers from the same goalscoring problem that has plagued it over the past several years. In seven league games TFC has only scored seven times, with Defoe accounting for three of those despite suffering a hamstring injury that kept him out of Nelsen's side for the entirety of April.
The goal drought has brought scrutiny to the rest of the roster. Brazilian attacker Gilberto is, fairly or not, already earning comparisons to much-maligned former TFC striker Chad Barrett for his ability to do everything but score goals, and there has been a near complete lack of secondary goalscoring that playoff-hopeful teams need to compete over the course of the season.
With that being said, it is still early enough in the season for Gilberto to find his scoring boots and for the rest of the team to start chipping in the odd goal. But the reality at the moment is that Defoe is TFC's only reliable scoring threat, and when he's unavailable the cupboard is quite bare.
After Defoe's four goals in five total competitive appearances, the next highest totals on the scorers list belong to Michael Bradley and Issey Nakajima-Farran at two apiece. Bradley was always expected to get a goal here and there, but he was brought over from Roma to be more of a set up man than a finisher. And Nakajima-Farran has never been a prolific scorer at any level, so while his offensive output is a pleasant surprise it shouldn't be expected to last throughout the year.
Until Gilberto, Dwayne De Rosario, Andrew Wiedeman and newly acquired Englishman Luke Moore start finding the back of the net, Defoe will remain Toronto's sole weapon up front. He was always going to be the guy in terms of netting for TFC, but right now he's the only guy, and his less-interrupted presence in Toronto can only be a good thing for a side still struggling to slay old demons.