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Nelsen tabs goal-scoring Defoe for World Cup: “If I was Roy Hodgson, I’d pick him in a heartbeat, but I’m Ryan Nelsen”

Mar 22, 2014, 7:52 PM EDT

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TORONTO, Canada — Jermain Defoe was at it again on Saturday, seemingly everywhere on a sloppy pitch as he carved up DC United before finishing one of his myriad chances to give Toronto FC a win in its home opener.

It was impossible not to notice his quality, and his manager certainly did.

“I’ve gotta watch what I say here cause if I was Roy Hodgson, I’d pick him in a heartbeat, but I’m Ryan Nelsen,” said the TFC manager. “What I’d say is he’s got a natural ability to do what you’ve seen out there. If he keeps this up, he’s obviously putting up himself up as a candidate for the striker (position).”

Defoe’s goal Saturday was more of the poacher’s variety, as he coolly slotted in a rebound of a Gilberto attempt. Michael Bradley started the play with a gorgeous ball over the top that had Nelsen searching for the right adjectives.

“The ball from Michael Bradley and the run to Gilberto for the goal was just gorgeous to tell the truth,” Nelsen said. “Beautiful. It was such a weighted pass and touch and shot. It was a good save and it was only going to ever fall to one guy. It always does fall for him.”

Bradley was asked about the difference between playing against Defoe and having him as a teammate. The American midfielder chose to go a different route with his response, praising him effusively.

“He gets chances and scores goals,” Bradley said. “He works for the team. He finds himself in good spots. He knows we need him coming other need. He sniffs out chances and when chances fall for him, he’s really good at knowing what he wants to do with it.”

For his part, Defoe admitted the American game is a tough one. For the second straight week the Englishman took a beating, including some out of the way shots from Jeff Parke.

“It’s difficult,” Defoe said. “On a personal note, you’re playing against defenders who are really physical. But you’ve gotta embrace it. I’m playing with a good team.”

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