MLS

Dike excited to start next chapter of career with TFC

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The Canadian Press
9/10/2013 4:43:51 PM
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TORONTO -- His Nigerian first name is Chinedu, which means "God guides us." His surname, Dike (pronounced DEE-kay), translates into "strength."

But in North America he goes by his English middle name, Bright.

Toronto FC manager Ryan Nelsen expects Bright Dike to live up to his last name, promising the newly acquired forward will cause havoc in front of goal.

It's easy to see why. Listed at six foot one and 220 pounds, Dike is a load.

Asked to describe his style of play, the 26-year-old Dike pointed to his body.

"If you haven't seen me play, you can look at me and just tell I'm big, strong, athletic, fast," he said matter-of-factly. "(An) aerial threat as well. You can look for me to play a No. 9 role and help this team out. Hopefully I'm another weapon he (Nelsen) can use."

Dike's voice is as big as his body, with a booming sound that would do well on CNN voiceovers.

Dike is ready to see action Wednesday against the visiting Chicago Fire (10-11-5), although Nelsen says he will ease in the new forward given his comeback from February knee surgery and lack of preparation time in Toronto.

"Bright brings something that we just don't have, in terms of the pace and the power," Nelsen said Tuesday after practice.

Toronto also got a first-round pick in 2015 and allocation money in shipping Argentine striker Maximiliano Urruti and a 2013 international roster spot to the Portland Timbers. Toronto will also get 20 per cent of a future transfer fee if Portland sells Urruti.

"It's a really good deal for us," said Nelsen.

Nelsen is short on offensive weapons and it has shown in the standings.

Toronto FC (4-13-10) has scored 23 goals, which ranks 18th in the 19-team league.

The much-injured Danny Koevermans returned to training Tuesday but will likely need more time before he is game-ready. That leaves Robert Earnshaw, Andrew Wiedeman and Justin Braun up front.

While Dike trained Tuesday, he may take time to settle in given his surgically repaired knee.

"We want to protect him," Nelsen said. "He's here for the long-term."

In Portland, he was an unused substitute twice and played 80 minutes in a reserve game prior to being traded.

With Toronto saying it is after two designated player strikers in the January transfer window, Dike will probably play the role of an impact substitute next season.

Dike, born to Nigerian parents in Oklahoma City, has been restricted to 23 games (nine starts) in his three MLS seasons due to a ruptured Achilles tendon in 2011 and his knee surgery this year. But healthy last season, he scored five goals in 12 games.

His knee injury was a freak one, with two players falling on the same leg from two different directions. Dike was durable during his college days at Notre Dame, where he played 86 games.

With the MLS roster freeze looming Friday at 5 p.m. ET, Nelsen says he has been entertaining a lot of calls.

"We've been getting a lot of options for a lot of our players," he said.

The plan for two new DP strikers means the writing is on the wall for Koevermans, whose contact expires at the end of the season. Toronto, which also has midfielder Matias Laba as a designated player, is limited to three DPs.

Koevermans, a 34-year-old Dutch forward who makes a team-leading US$1.66 million this season, has played just 78 minutes this year.

"When he's played for Toronto, he's been incredible," said Nelsen. "His goals-to-games ratio has been really good. And if we had a fully fit Danny Koevermans, we probably wouldn't be standing here, we'd be in a really nice position in the league.

"But unfortunately we just haven't had it. That's life. But again Danny's got seven games and if he can do really well, there's always a door open for Danny."

Koevermans has 17 goals in his 30 games (22 starts) for Toronto.

NOTES -- Dike has worn 19 most of his playing career but that belongs to Reggie Lambe in Toronto. So Dike will wear seven. "No. 7's a good number. I don't think anybody cares what number you're wearing as long as you're scoring goals." ... Toronto's four Canadian internationals were back at training Tuesday, thanks to the Canadian Soccer Association freeing them up from a second friendly in Spain against Mauritania ... New Raptors GM Masai Ujiri, said to be looking for a practice facility for his NBA team, dropped by TFC's training centre Tuesday to see what his sister team has at its north Toronto HQ.

Bright Dike (Photo: Canadian Press)

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(Photo: Canadian Press)
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