Toronto FC's Ryan Nelsen thrilled with Jermain Defoe's opening act: "I'm not surprised"
What a start for Jermain Defoe.
With an impressive two-goal debut, Defoe and Toronto FC kicked off their highly anticipated 2014 season with a bang, beating the Seattle Sounders 2-1 at CenturyLink Field for the full three points away from home.
Defoe is no stranger to scoring goals, but even he was left feeling sentimental after opening his account with his new team.
“To score two goals in your debut, it’s a dream,” Defoe told reporters after the game. “To come here and to win was massive for us. Everyone’s delighted – it was an important three points.”
His first goal came in the 17th minute of play courtesy of a threaded pass by Jonathan Osorio. Defoe was plenty impressed with the young Canadian’s playmaking skill, something he said the two talked about prior to the game.
“I said to Jonathan, I said to him, ‘when I make the runs, just look for me,’ and he said, ‘yeah, I’ll look for you straight away,’” Defoe said. “It was an unbelievable pass. I’ve always worked on those situations, one-on-one with the goalkeeper. You have to be clinical.”
TFC head coach Ryan Nelsen said Defoe’s performance was just what he had in mind when he lured him stateside from EPL side Tottenham Hotspur.
“That was Jermain Defoe,” Nelsen told MLSsoccer.com in a phone conversation. “Let’s just say I’m not surprised. When the ball falls in those situations, he puts them away. That’s why we brought him in. I was hoping he’d get in those scenarios and he got in them.”
Toronto FC battled to see out the game in the final minutes, despite commanding a 2-0 lead at halftime. A goal by Clint Dempsey put the pressure on in the second half, but another newcomer, USMNT star Michael Bradley, marshaled Toronto FC’s defensive lines to secure the three points.
“It’s funny the way games go,” Bradley told reporters after the match. “I thought for the first half we had everything under control, the second half, the same. It’s just about buckling in and making sure no matter what happens you come away with three points.”
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While it was an impressive debut for the new-look TFC side, even with the absence of their third new Designated Player, Brazilian striker Gilberto, Bradley said that the level of play will also improve when playing on grass.
“On turf, it’s about playing off second balls, tackles, interceptions, loose balls,” Bradley said. “It’s not a day for putting together a million passes and necessarily playing through the midfield. It’s about putting good balls forward and moving your lines.”
Nelsen was pleased with the performance of his midfield general in his debut for Toronto FC.
“What Michael brings is an absolute energy,” Nelsen said. “His character, his confidence, is infectious on people. He made Seattle turn over the ball a lot of times. He got into very nice positions.
“You need character and strength to battle what the opposition throw at you and Michael was right in the middle of everything.”
It was certainly a day for Toronto FC’s players celebrate the important win, with one eye on next week’s home opener against D.C. United.
“It’s an important day,” Bradley said. “It’s only one game, and we’re mindful of that. One game doesn’t make the season but like I said, it’s each step along the way and today is a good step for us.”