Jermain Defoe's dream debut offers Toronto FC hope for a new era
All of the attention and money lavished on Jermain Defoe after he signed with Toronto FC made sense about 25 minutes into his MLS debut.
Defoe found himself on the end of TFC's two most presentable chances of the afternoon by the conclusion of that period. He dispatched both of them with the precision cultivated from his years in the Premier League. His tidy double – plus the resolute efforts from the entire side in the second half – ensured the Reds started this new epoch with a 2-1 victory at Seattle on Saturday afternoon.
"To score two goals on your debut, it's a dream," Defoe said.
His teammates joined him in this fanciful parallel universe where TFC benefited from the mistakes of others and repelled foray after foray with defiance and organization at the back.
Defoe's contributions on the day established the platform for this precious victory. The England international striker noted after the match that TFC grasped the importance of a good showing and wanted to pull ahead early to temper Seattle's enthusiasm for the task ahead.
In this sort of difficult setting, Defoe's ruthlessness in the early stages meant the difference between a result and yet another setback. He praised the service – both Jonathan Osorio's defense-splitting pass for the opener after 17 minutes and Marco Pappa's awful backpass for the second seven minutes later placed him in good positions – for his opportunities, but he took them with aplomb with darting runs at the proper times and trademark finishes inside the post to convert possibility into production.
"That's why he's been at the level he's been at: he can do those sort of things," Toronto FC coach Ryan Nelsen said. "Once you see it firsthand, thereâs a reason why he scores so many goals. He proved that today to hopefully the millions of people who watched the game today."
Those sequences don't just happen by chance, though. Defoe looks and waits for the right time to float away from defenders and moves quickly into the right areas to find space. He isn't quite on the same page as his teammates after his belated arrival this week, but his instincts make up for the cohesiveness still on the way.
"Everywhere Jermain has gone in his career, he gets goals," TFC midfielder Michael Bradley said. "We knew that if we were able to get him the ball in certain spots, he's going to be able to put the balls in the back of the net."
Defoe's penchant for meeting those standards explains why he finds himself with a lucrative contract in hand and a brief to fire this perennially frustrated club into the playoffs. He is charged with displaying the sort of quality mustered in his debut week after week as his team continues to find its footing in this new era.
As Defoe showed upon his debut, it is not a task beyond him. It is now just a matter of producing goals regularly to ensure this promising start lives up to the hype and reaps the expected success for his new club.
"The thing is that he finds himself in the right spots," TFC forward Dwayne De Rosario said. "It's just getting the ball to him now. We were able to do that today: two chances, two goals. It was a great way to start off the season for him and a great way to start off the season for us."