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Returns of Defoe, Caldwell, Bloom provide spark as Toronto FC hosts Fire

TORONTO - Jermain Defoe is ready to put a frustrating stint on the sidelines behind him and help his Toronto FC teammates rebound from one of their worst losses of the season.

Defoe will be one of three key players returning to Toronto's lineup when the Chicago Fire come to BMO Field on Saturday. The Reds are hoping to rebound from a decisive 4-1 loss in Kansas City last week.

Defoe, who leads Toronto in scoring this season with 11 goals in 15 games, has missed three games with a groin injury. He last played in a 3-0 loss at D.C. United on July 30.

"It was frustrating but there's nothing I could do," he said Friday. "You can't play when you're not 100 per cent because you're not doing anyone any favours.

"I was restricted in my movement and stuff so it was a case of just resting my groin cause I've had a long season."

Captain Steven Caldwell (quad) and defender Mark Bloom (MCL strain) are also available for selection for Ryan Nelsen's side.

"It's three individuals that are pretty solid. Got a lot of trust there," Nelsen said.

Caldwell missed Toronto's last seven games while Bloom has sidelined for six.

"Hundred per cent back," Bloom said. "I mean there's going to be a few issues where I maybe take one off the toe and it stings a little bit, but walk it off and keep playing.

"It's miserable. You almost work harder when you're injured. Always in the gym, always working twice as long. It's nice to be back out there, the rewards of all the work I've done."

Toronto (9-8-5) enters the game in third spot in the Eastern Conference, two points up on the Columbus Crew. After playing their previous four games on the road, Saturday begins a stretch of seven games, which sees the Reds play at home five times.

"There's no easy games in this league obviously because of the parity, but if you look at our run-in, it's a pretty favourable run-in," said Nelsen of the schedule. "Just because it's favourable, doesn't mean you're going to get points. We know that the game on Saturday, and not looking too far ahead, but the games beyond that are going to be important."

Toronto is 3-8-6 all time against Chicago and 3-4-2 at BMO Field when the Fire visit.

"Every game is important, especially now that we're down the stretch, getting close to playoff time," Bloom said. "We're sitting in a good spot so we've got to keep that position.

"Despite the loss last weekend, we're ready to go. It hasn't affected our confidence at all."

Chicago (4-6-13) enters the weekend in a fight for the fifth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, three points back of the New York Red Bulls. The Fire come to Toronto after dropping a 1-0 decision in Montreal last weekend.

"I think they're probably better than their record (shows), but in saying that, it's hard to win when you're drawing," said Nelsen. "You can say 'oh we're close to wins', but you're always so close to that other line where you're so close to losing."

The two teams played to a 1-1 draw at Toyota Park in their only other meeting last month. The third and final meeting between the two sides goes next month in Chicago.

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