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Toronto FC desperately wants a win over East-leading Sporting Kansas City

TORONTO - Toronto FC head coach Ryan Nelsen says Saturday’s match against Eastern Conference-leading Sporting Kansas City is a must-win.

Kansas City (11-6-6) currently sits atop the east with 39 points through 23 games while Toronto (9-7-5) has 32 points through 21 contests.

"We can’t lose to them, if we want to catch them," Nelsen said at training this week. "In saying that, we’re more than confident that we can get a result."

The last meeting between the two sides was a heated affair as Sporting KC edged Toronto 2-1 at BMO Field on July 26. Referee Ted Unkel handed out a total of eight cards, including five to Toronto. Kansas City captain Matt Besler was sent off in the 75th minute.

"We’ve moved on from that and now it’s a good opportunity to get revenge," said midfielder Jonathan Osorio.

Nelsen, who was fined for his post-match comments, downplayed the significance.

"It’s just another game for us, it’s another game for us to try and get better and try and get better as a team and especially learn from these games when you play away from home," he said. "You want to get something out of every single game you play in and you can learn."

The Reds are wrapping up a four-game road swing during which they've dropped just three points in a 3-0 loss to D.C. United on July 30.

"The last two games have been good," midfielder Michael Bradley said of the road success. "Obviously D.C. we let ourselves down, you get to this point of the year and it’s all about looking forward and trying to make sure that as the most important games come we’re really hitting full stride."

Toronto concludes the month of August with consecutive games at home against Chicago (Aug. 16) and New England (Aug. 30).

Coming off a 2-0 road loss in Vancouver last weekend, Kansas City holds an edge in the season series with a draw at home and the victory in Toronto last month.

Saturday marks their third and final meeting of the season.

"We know they’re coming off a loss so we’re getting them at a good time," said Osorio. "We always want to pressure them right from the start. Set the tone of the game so that we’re dictating everything."

But Nelsen said Kansas City will be saying the same thing.

"They’ll want a reaction from coming off a loss, we’ll just take care of our own business and they’ll take care of there’s and we’ll see where we are," said Nelsen.

Nelsen’s side could have some positive news coming on the injury front. Striker Jermain Defoe, who has missed the previous two games due to a groin strain, appears to set for a return.

"We may have Jermaine back, but again we don’t want to push him too much," Nelsen said. “(Defoe’s) status is that it’s looking positive, it’s looking really good."

Defoe’s return couldn’t have come at a better time as the Reds have been dealing with a flu bug all week. Nelsen said as many as five players have felt symptoms, including defender Doneil Henry.

TFC will once again be without defenders Mark Bloom (MCL strain) and captain Steven Caldwell (quad) both could be ready for next Saturday’s match at BMO Field.

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