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Healthy Koevermans looking to play more for Toronto FC

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The Canadian Press
6/21/2013 6:21:03 PM
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TORONTO -- The camera caught Danny Koevermans' face when he stood on the sideline, waiting to enter a game for the first time in nearly a year. It was unmistakable joy.

"Goosebumps," Koevermans said of that moment. "Just a great feeling. The standing ovation from the fans. What I'd been working for, and I was just so happy to finally be coming back on the pitch."

The big Dutch striker made his season debut for Toronto FC on June 1, subbing into the game against visiting Philadelphia in the 86th minute in his first action since tearing his ACL last July.

The 6-3 striker hasn't played since, sitting out Toronto's 2-1 win over D.C. United last weekend that ended the team's 11-game winless streak.

"Hopefully I'll get some more minutes in the coming weeks," Koevermans said at practice Friday. "We'll see. Tomorrow in Houston maybe. You don't know."

Toronto is in Houston on Saturday looking to put together back-to-back victories for the first time in nearly a year. Houston will be aiming to end their five game winless streak.

Fans would love to see Koevermans back at full strength. The hard-charging forward was lethal in the air last season, and scored nine goals in 16 games before his injury dealt a huge blow to the team.

TFC coach Ryan Nelsen said any player of Koevermans' class "you want to get him on the field as much as you can." But it's easier said than done to find minutes for Koevermans when Robert Earnshaw -- the team's leading scorer with six goals -- and Luis Silva have been playing well together.

"And it's just about getting the timing," Nelsen said. "An ACL injury, he's been away for close to a year now, so it's not just going to fall into place just like that. Danny wants to get on the field but sometimes. . . the more he trains the more he gets used to it, the more he gets knocks, the better it is for him."

Koevermans has made his home in Toronto since he was acquired in June of 2011 and did his rehab here. The 34-year-old said he never once doubted he'd back playing at full strength.

"The moment it happened, you just switch off, and switch on again to be back nine or 10 months later," Koevermans said of his mindset.

Nelsen, who played his last game for England's Queens Park Rangers in January before joining Toronto as coach, stayed late after practice to play small-sided games with Koevermans during the last few weeks of his recovery.

"That was the best part of it, because you're back on the pitch. I love playing those games like they're doing right now," Koevermans said, glancing over at a small-sided game Friday, featuring coaching staff and players who weren't travelling to Houston.

"I wish I was in there, because I've missed a lot of months. The frustrating part is just to start, but when everything gets stronger, and gets better, that's the fun part, because you get to touch the ball again, run again, get some goals again. That's the best part of it, and it's only waiting for the comeback.

"Maybe we could just sign (Nelsen), I think he's still fit," Koevermans added, laughing.

Nelsen said he struggled in those games against Koevermans.

"I was blowing a gasket even when I was marking (retired defender) Jimmy Brennan, let alone a player of Danny Koevermans' class," Nelsen joked.

Toronto -- 2-7-5 and ninth in the Eastern Conference -- faces a tough test at Houston. The Dynamo is 6-5-4 and fourth in the East and until a loss last month against Kansas City had gone a whopping 36 straight games at home without a loss.

Toronto may be better prepared for the weather Saturday. Last year in Houston, Toronto let a 3-1 halftime lead disappear as they wilted in the 29 C heat that with the humidity felt closer to 39 C. The game ended 3-3.

Saturday's temperature is expected to be about 34 C. The team practised in the hot sun at their training base in Downsview on Friday afternoon, with the temperature reaching about 26 C.

"Guys like the heat. The hotter the better. More fun," Nelsen said -- but added Houston could still have an advantage. "I think (the Dynamo) are just used to it, so whether it's freezing cold or boiling hot, you get used to the climate in those conditions, used to how the ball bounces, run of the green and all that fun stuff. Any homefield advantage is an advantage."

Danny Koevermans (Photo: Abelimages/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Abelimages/Getty Images)
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