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Long-injured Ayo Akinola will dress for Saturday’s match, Chris Mavinga to start

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There will be a welcome sight for TFC fans on Saturday night when the Reds host the Philadelphia Union.

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Coach Bob Bradley said forward Ayo Akinola will dress for the match, even though he still might not play. The 22-year-old Brampton native, who tied for the lead in goals for TFC two seasons ago, tore his ACL last July, underwent surgery and has been out ever since.

“He’ll be part of the team (on Saturday), but he still needs some time in terms of gaining confidence, pushing himself in training, being more dynamic in training,” said Bradley. “It’s good to have him in full training, but we need to develop his confidence completely and when a young player is coming from that type of injury, I think you’ve got to be very, very careful so that you don’t rush him and that there’s an agreement about the right time. So he’s getting closer, I’m not sure we’re there yet.”

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Bradley said that veteran centre back Chris Mavinga will start on Saturday — his first taste of game action since Toronto’s first MLS match on Feb.26 at Dallas. Carlos Salcedo, the Reds’ Designated Player centre back, will miss Saturday’s match as he picked up a red card in last Saturday’s game at Real Salt Lake — giving Mavinga the opportunity to finally get back into game action. Mavinga is a solid CB when he is on his game but consistency has been an issue at times.

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“We work with Chris every day. Chris would have started against Columbus (March 12) but two days before, he tweaked his MCL and that kept him out a little bit,” said Bradley. “Everyone knows that MCL injuries — the confidence to be able to make passes and just football movements — MCL injuries interfere with that. So there was a little bit of just getting that back. And, yeah, the consistency of his play in the back, his awareness, his ability to deal with different situations, those are things we speak to him about.

But honestly we speak to all our defenders about that.”

The Reds will be without some key, young players on Saturday: Left back Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty (knee) as well as midfielders Ralph Priso and Noble Okello.

-Steve Buffery

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