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TFC striker Gilberto out with hip flexor injury, won't join club in Chicago

Toronto FC's Gilberto, right, heads the ball past Montreal Impact's Heath Pearce, left, during first half final Amway Canadian Championship soccer action in Toronto on Wednesday, May 28, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

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Toronto FC's Gilberto, right, heads the ball past Montreal Impact's Heath Pearce, left, during first half final Amway Canadian Championship soccer action in Toronto on Wednesday, May 28, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

TORONTO - Just as he was finding his scoring touch, Toronto FC striker Gilberto has suffered another setback.

Toronto will be without the Brazilian attacker when they face the Chicago Fire on Wednesday night. Gilberto, who scored his first MLS goal in last Friday's 2-2 draw in New York, is once again sidelined with a nagging hip flexor injury, which also forced him to miss the start of the season.

Gilberto, whose free-kick strike is up for MLS goal of the week, did not participate in training for a second straight day Tuesday as the team prepared for an afternoon flight to Chicago.

"Just a little slight strain in the stabilizing muscle," said Toronto head coach Ryan Nelsen. "Really nothing major. It's not a major muscle it's more of a stabilizing muscle.

"Timing is not great, but generally what you'll find happens with a lot of (designated players), the first couple months they just need some time to get used to the league, used to everything and hopefully (the goal) is the catalyst for him to kick on."

Gilberto underwent an MRI on Monday, which revealed the injury.

"It's certainly unfortunate for him," said Toronto defender Steven Caldwell. "He's just got himself off and running with a tremendous goal. It's just disappointing that he's not available. He scored that great goal. Hopefully he can get back really soon."

Chicago (2-8-4) sits at the bottom of the table in the MLS Eastern Conference, however, Toronto (6-2-4) will not be taking their hosts lightly.

The Reds have failed to pick up three points in seven (0-3-4) all-time visits to Chicago and have not defeated the Fire since a 4-1 win at BMO Field four seasons ago.

"We know we're going to get a real challenge. They beat us twice last season," Caldwell said. "They've got some excellent players. It's going to be a difficult game, any game in this league is difficult going away from home or at home, especially away from home with the travel."

While the Reds received bad news on the injury front Tuesday, the Fire could welcome back reining MLS MVP Mike Magee to the lineup.

Magee suffered an ankle injury during the Fire's 4-2 extra-time win over Columbus in the U.S. Open Cup last week, but returned to training Monday and could play Wednesday.

"They've got quality all over the field," continued Caldwell. "They've got Magee, who is a proven goal scorer, MVP last season. It's never an easy game going to Chicago. We're ready for that, we're focused, we're thinking about ourselves and what we need to do to impact the match."

Toronto is looking to put last Friday's draw against the Red Bulls behind them. The Reds, who led 2-1, squandered three points as Bradley Wright-Phillips tied the game in the 93rd minute.

"Any point most teams will take it at the beginning of the game, but the performance warranted three points," said Nelsen. "But it gives us confidence going into Chicago. (It) gives us confidence going in any place cause now we know we're capable of getting results."

A win in Chicago Wednesday could put TFC in a position to take over sole possession of second place in the Eastern Conference from D.C. United Saturday at BMO Field.

Toronto trails D.C. United by five points, but have four games in hand.

Nelsen also kept the door open for Brazilian keeper Julio Cesar to return to the team following the World Cup despite reports to the contrary.

"Reports are saying he's not coming back and all that sort of stuff, it's premature," he said. "It's just speculation. Anyone that thinks they know the situation is completely wrong.

"There's only two or there parties that know and once the decision gets made it gets made, to say that he's not going to come back, is lies."

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