[MLS SPOTLIGHT]English international Jermain Defoe needed all of 26 minutes to double his tally for the entire 2013-14 English Premier League, giving Toronto FC a two-goal cushion that stood up for a 2-1 win at the Seattle Sounders in their much-anticipated meeting featuring American stars Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey facing off.
Seattle Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said his team gifted Defoe his two goals, which made him just the third player after Hristo Stoitchkov of the Chicago Fire and Juan Francisco Palencia of Chivas USA to score in first half of an MLS debut.
The first goal came when Jonathan Osorio, one of only five starters who were holdovers from last year's team, split the Seattle defense, and Defoe slotted the ball home past former Toronto goalie Stefan Frei.
The second goal was gifted by Guatemalan Marco Pappa, who gave Defoe the ball outside the area, and Englishman beat defender Djimi Traore to get open and fire the ball past Frei for his second goal.
Regarding his chances of making the England World Cup after his move to MLS, Defoe had admitted on the eve of his MLS debut he'd be judged by whether he scores.
“To score two goals on your debut, it’s a dream,” he said afterward. “Obviously, with the England thing, it’s obviously going to be in the back of my mind, but I’m sure if someone said to [England coach] Roy Hodgson, ‘If you haven’t seen, Jermain scored two goals …’ then maybe he won’t be surprised. So yeah, it was good, but I think it’s important that we keep our heads down now and all stick together and look forward to the next game.”
Clint Dempsey reduced the Toronto lead with his first goal in more than four months. Dempsey could face MLS disciplinary action for what replays showed were an off-the-ball slap directed at Mark Bloom that got the Toronto defender in his crotch and for kicking Alvaro Rey in the ankle later in the game, also off the ball.
Despite a 13-8 edge in shots, Seattle could not get the equalizer as the Toronto defense stood firm. The backline featured Bloom, who came to Toronto after beginning last season in the NASL, and 20-year-old Doneil Henry, who had an outstanding game.
“I thought he was very good," said Toronto coach Ryan Nelsen. "We forget he’s only 20. He plays above his age. But when you’ve got Justin Morrow, Julio Cesar and Steven Caldwell around you, and Michael Bradley in front of you, it does help. I thought the whole back line -- everybody, I can’t fault anybody to tell you the truth.”
Schmid bemoaned the Sounders' inability to contain Defoe on the two goals.
"The first was at a time when [Brad] Evans was off injured and wasn't back on the field," he said. "We didn't cover the position, so that's our fault. We didn't do that well. The second one was a bad back pass. It went right to him. Obviously when you're going to do that against a good player like Defoe, and give him two good looks on goal, he is going to show you he is a good player and he did."
Toronto went the entire 2013 season without a win over a Western Conference team, but it became the first Eastern Conference team to win an interconference match in 2014.
TRIVIA.Not one player who played in Saturday's opener for Toronto played in its 2013 opener at Vancouver. Only Osorio was even on the bench in the March 2013 game.