Toronto FC striker Jermain Defoe missed a spot-kick and sitter in Wednesday's 1-0 home defeat to the Houston Dynamo to leave the club's post-season hopes on the brink.
While the likes of Queens Park Rangers, Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur are all said to be interested in bringing Jermain Defoe back to the Premier League in the winter, the Toronto FC striker’s performance in Wednesday’s 1-0 home defeat to the Houston Dynamo might make them think twice.
Making just his second appearances and first start in six weeks after recovering from a groin strain, Defoe proceeded to miss a 55th-miunte spot-kick and clear cut chance to level in the final stages, as a first-half Giles Barnes strike saw 10-man Houston earn three vital points at BMO Field.
The England international did have seven attempts on goal but, with just two on target, too often appeared to be firing off a shot just for the sake of it, leaving fans pining for absent Brazilian front man Gilberto, who missed the game with a hamstring problem.
With just three regular-season fixtures left, Toronto’s once-promising hopes of making their first playoff appearance since entering MLS in 2007 are now on the brink, and head coach Greg Vanney admitted after the match that their failings in front of goal could end up costing them.
‘I think at the beginning of the match, if you would have told me it was going to come down to a PK from Defoe and a couple of nice setting balls for him, and 26 attempts at goal, then I'd think our chances were pretty good,’ he told the club’s official website.
‘At the end of it, we have to execute when we get into the box and get around the box. I think we had enough opportunities.
‘What we lost [Wednesday] was our margin of error for the rest of the season,’ he added. ‘We now have to go out and we have to win. That's it. I think we had a slight margin of error coming into this game, for the next four games, but now we don't have that. Now we've got to pick up wins on the road in addition to the one home match we have against Montreal.
‘For me, we've got to be almost perfect from here on out.’
Aged 32, Defoe has scored 11 goals in 18 MLS games since arriving from Tottenham Hotspur at the start of 2014, but has spent large chunks of the campaign out injured.
Widely reported to be angling for a return to England following ex-head coach Ryan Nelsen’s sacking in late-August, a hectic transfer deadline saga saw him jet back across the Atlantic admit reports of interest from the likes of QPR, Leicester, Newcastle and even Arsenal.
General manager Tim Bezbatchenko revealed at the time that the club had turned down a record bid for their £6 million man but, with talks over his future due to be held at the culmination of the MLS season, the signs point towards Defoe’s stint in North America being a short one.