Bright Dike has become Toronto FC's man of mystery. He was expected to miss the majority of the 2014 season with an injury that kept him off of the Nigerian roster for the World Cup. His return, which came in August, was earlier than expected. However, after a short stint of playing time he largely disappeared, held off the gameday roster for unexplained reasons. Most considered it to be the end of his time with Toronto.
Contrary to that fact, however, news broke yesterday that Dike had resigned with Toronto FC, despite appearing to be completely out of Greg Vanney's plans. Of all the players to re-sign during the offseason he seemed by far the least likely. This makes it just the latest chapter in his mysterious story. Dike was one of two strikers who Toronto acquired yesterday, as RSL's Robbie Findley joined the team earlier in the day.
As aforementioned, Dike's 2014 season was hardly his best work in MLS. He played limited minutes, only 19 in total, and failed to score in that time. Some wondered if there were still unannounced lingering effects from the torn achilles tendon he suffered in preseason. But the consensus opinion was that after returning from injury he had fallen out of favour with Vanney, and therefore found himself behind others on the striker depth chart.
While most will be surprised, few will be unhappy to see Dike return. In his nine games with Toronto he has looked like a dominated presence, and the type of strong and hardworking striker that tends to be incredibly effective in this league. There were more than a few who called for him to be taken by either Orlando City SC or New York City FC in the Expansion Draft, the official MLS mock draft included. He has only scored one goal for Toronto since he was acquired in the Maxi Urruti trade, but has 7 in just 32 MLS appearances. Only 14 of those have been starts.
Dike's signing means Toronto's front line is really starting to take shape. Luke Moore and Dominic Oduro will be returning to the fold, and will undoubtedly be in the conversation for a starting spot. Yesterday Robbie Findley was picked in the re-entry and his MLS experience and past success dictates that he will be given a lengthy look as well. Now with Dike, the team has four potential MLS starting options. That's not a bad situation to be in for a team who traditionally have been incredibly poor up front.
With every striker move, however, the underlying narrative continues to be whether or not there will be a spot on this team for Jermain Defoe. While all public signs, surprisingly, point to the fact that there is still potential that he stays with the club the way the team is constructing the roster seems to indicate otherwise. On top of the above players, there is a chance Jordan Hamilton will be given a look with the big club next season. There are all whispers of Toronto's interest in Canadian NCAA prospect Cyle Larin, although thus far only based on speculation. That's not much room, monetarily or otherwise, for a DP striker.