With a surname that literally means strength, Toronto FC striker Bright Dike is feeling strong and energized as he aims to have a breakthrough season during a Major League Soccer campaign in which his club is expected to deliver a breakthrough season of its own.
Dike, 28, made his first appearance of 2015 for the Reds last Sunday when he came on in place of Luke Moore in the 79th minute. While the match ultimately ended in a controversial and tough loss for Toronto, the Edmond, Oklahoma native did make a very positive impression in his eleven minutes of action, including an assist on Jackson’s 88th minute goal.
“It is just very exciting to step on the pitch,” Dike told RedNation. “I was full of energy. I was excited and the blood was flowing. I felt it went well. We just needed to keep them from scoring after we had scored. But it is always good when you are able to make an impact right when you are subbed on. Hopefully there are more positive things to come.”
The 6 foot 1 barrel-chested forward is coming off a 2014 season in which he was limited to only two appearances due to a major injury. With that in mind, Dike was pleased to admit that he is more than fully fit and ready to play and be a big part of a successful season for the Reds.
“This is the best I have ever felt,” he explained. “I have been in this league for five years and this is the best I have ever felt after a preseason. We were doing preseason tests and for the 50 meter dash and the verticals, I was still top three on the team, so all the injuries did not affect anything. If anything, it made me stronger because I have focused on my mobility all through the preseason with the coaches. It’s been fantastic.”
“The offseason wasn’t an offseason for me,” Dike added. “I had a couple of colleges that I would practice at and I actually played in the friendlies for the Oklahoma City Energy, just to get in a couple of games and to stay fit. I felt great and I think I prepared really well for this season. During TFC preseason all of the coaches were very helpful and encouraging and they have said that this is some of the best soccer they have seen me play. It’s always great to hear that from the coaches and you just want to keep it going. The goals will come because they are coming in practice.”
As one of five out and out strikers on Toronto’s roster, Dike is particularly excited about the potential of a TFC attack that is very varied and full of players capable of hurting even the most seasoned back lines in the league.
“Our attack is scary,” the Nigeria International said. “I honestly feel sorry for any team that has to go against any of us paired up together. Can you imagine teams worrying about having to defend me and Altidore at the same time? Or having Luke or Findley running just behind? We’re all fast and all crafty. This team is so dangerous in the attack. And then you add Seba in there delivering balls to you. It’s scary.”
“It’s very exciting (being part of this team),” Dike added. “You dream to have a player like Seba right underneath you to just to give you quality balls. It is fantastic.”
Outside of the quality of his teammates, Dike is also buoyed by the style of play that Head Coach Greg Vanney has instituted in his first full season at the helm of the club.
“It suits me a lot because I am a center forward and I feel like our outside backs end up getting more crosses in,” Dike stated. “That’s a really strong point of mine – getting into the box and getting on the end of crosses and set pieces and corners.”
With a current record of 1 win and 2 losses, Toronto has not yet looked like a team that has completely integrated all of the new faces on its roster and realized the enormous potential inherent in the talent of its players.
As a player feeling fully confident in his own abilities, Dike is just as confident in his team’s prognosis with respect to putting it all together and realizing TFC’s potential as a top club.
“When you have world class players like Seba, Jozy, Michael and Cheyrou, those are players that know the game,” Dike explained. “They are top athletes that understand the game, so they come to a quicker understanding of how each other play than maybe the average player. So I don’t think it is something that will take very long, due to having guys that knowledgeable.”