KANSAS CITY, Kan. – With his teammates applying so much pressure to Toronto FC’s beleaguered backline, Julio Cesar didn’t have a lot to do at his usual holding spot.
So Sporting Kansas City’s veteran defensive midfielder decided to go up the pitch and join the fun.
“When they don’t press me and let me play, I get more comfortable,” Julio Cesar said after scoring his first goal of the season in Saturday night’s 2-0 win over Toronto FC. “You can get in the attack if you don’t have the pressure you usually have in this position.”
OPTA Chalkboard: Where did Julio Cesar do his damage?
His first two shots went awry, one pushed wide left in the eighth minute and the second rolling harmlessly across the Reds’ goalmouth in the 11th.
“For me, the most clear was the second one,” he said. “The ball was in front of me and I wanted to surprise the goalkeeper but I didn’t have luck.”
But the third shot, when it came, was nothing short of spectacular.
In the 35th minute, Graham Zusi sent a corner kick into Toronto’s penalty area. Julio Cesar, rushing in unmarked from the top right corner, blasted home a one-time volley from just outside the 6-yard box to put Sporting up 2-0.
“What a goal,” said Zusi, who earned his eighth assist – tied with D.C.’s Dwayne De Rosario most in the league – on the score. “Contender for Goal of the Year. If that doesn’t get Goal of the Week, I don’t know what will. It was just a great finish.“
Julio Cesar wouldn’t take all of the credit, though.
“I give 40 percent of the goal to Zusi,” he said. “He gave me the ball perfect.”
Despite his frequent forays into the attacking third, Julio Cesar didn’t neglect his defensive duties. He just took care of them in Toronto’s end, rather than his own.
“When they didn’t press in the midfield, it gave me more opportunity to step a little bit up and press them for the second ball,” he said. “That way they don’t have a chance to surprise us with the counterattack. “
That’s what Sporting needs from the Brazilian when it’s in a high-pressure attack, manager Peter Vermes said.
“I thought his commitment to get closer to people was very good, and that helps us,” Vermes said in the postgame news conference. “You win the ball higher up the field, you’ve got a short distance to the goal. I preach that all the time, and that part was really good.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.
HIGHLIGHTS: SKC 2, TOR 0