Toronto FC playmaker Alejandro Pozuelo will miss a fifth straight game after a setback in training.

The 30-year-old Spaniard, the reigning MLS MVP, has been sidelined by a lower body injury since playing 88 minutes Aug. 27 in a 3-1 loss at CF Montreal.

"We tried to bring him back and unfortunately he didn't recover the way we expected," coach Javier Perez said Thursday. "He suffered another setback so it's going to push a little bit further back his reintegration into the group."

Pozuelo missed the first 10 games of the season in all competitions after suffering a lower body injury in pre-season in Florida. He has played in just 13 of Toronto's 30 games this year.

The star playmaker had been an ironman before that. He was the only TFC player to start all 23 league games last season when he ranked ninth in the league in minutes played. He appeared in 30 MLS games the year before.

Toronto (4-15-6) plays at the Colorado Rapids (12-4-8) on Saturday. Colorado, coached by former Toronto assistant Robin Fraser, is 26 points ahead of TFC in the overall standings and is just two points out of the lead in the Western Conference.

Perez said midfielders Nick DeLeon and Jayden Nelson, who missed last Saturday's win over Nashville due to health and safety protocols, are back with the team.

The Toronto injury list features Ayo Akinola, Jozy Altidore and Ralph Priso, who are all recovering from surgery. Tsubasa Endoh has a lower body injury.

Saturday's game is Toronto's fifth since it resumed play Sept. 11 after the international break. It lost 2-0 to FC Cincinnati and 1-0 to Inter Miami before downing Nashville SC 2-1 and York United 4-0 on Wednesday, in Canadian Championship quarterfinal play.

With TFC targeting the Canadian Championship, looking for something to chase in a nightmarish season, Perez fielded arguably his strongest lineup Wednesday against York.

He said he will likely have to rotate some players in Colorado.

"But I think we try to keep our core group intact. Maybe a few players, they'll have to rotate just to get some rest," said the Spaniard.


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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 23, 2021.