The former Tottenham Hotspur striker scored a pair of first-half goals to lead Toronto FC to a 2-1 win in their season opener Saturday over the Seattle Sounders at CenturyLink Field. Dempsey did score a goal of his own, but the Sounders’ rally fell short despite a dominating second half.
Defoe wasted little time opening his MLS account, staking TFC to a 1-0 lead in the 17th minute. Taking advantage of a little bit of confusion – Brad Evans had just re-entered the field after having an injury addressed – Jonathan Osorio sprung Defoe with a slick through ball. Defoe took one touch before rifling a low shot from about 16 yards that easily beat Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei.
The match, which had been slightly tilted toward the Sounders at that point, took a decided turn. TFC turned the advantage into another goal in the 24th minute. With Bradley applying midfield pressure, Sounders midfielder Marco Pappa sent a loose pass toward his own goal to no one in particular. Defoe was the first to get there and unleashed a virtually uncontested shot from about 20 yards out just inside the right post for a 2-0 lead.
Defoe’s goals gave TFC a lead in their regular-season opener for just the second time in team history. It was also the franchise’s second win in an opener.
TFC looked poised to run away at one point, when just three minutes after Defoe’s second goal, Alvaro Rey got a good look from about 14 yards out. But Frei was able to make a leaping save on the shot bound for the far upper corner.
Although the Sounders defense eventually settled down, they were never able to really threaten Toronto FC’s goal until after halftime.
Lamar Neagle was able to get behind the defense in the 52nd minute on a long pass from Osvaldo Alonso but was whistled for a foul as he and Mark Bloom tangled for the ball inside the area. In the 53rd minute, TFC ‘keeper Julio Cesar kick saved a dangerous left-footed shot by Obafemi Martins.
Martins got another good look in the 60th minute, taking a back-heeled pass from Pappa at the top the penalty area and taking a shot from about 12 yards out that Steven Caldwell blocked before it could get to the goal.
- OPTA Chalkboard: Bradley a force in the middle
The Sounders finally made their hard work pay off in the 67th minute. Neagle won a ball at midfield, pushed it ahead to a charging Martins on the right flank. Martins eventually found Dempsey at the top of the penalty area, who used his first touch to free him from a defender and pound his shot inside the near post to make it 2-1.
But TFC were able to hold on in the waning minutes to record just their second win over the Sounders in franchise history and first at CenturyLink.
Seattle return to action next Saturday at the Montreal Impact, while Toronto have their home opener the same day against D.C. United.
MEN OF THE MATCH
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Jermaine Defoe||The former Tottenham striker didn't disappoint in his debut witha first-half brace|
|2||Michael Bradley||He did the dirty work in the center of the park and looked dangerous going forward|
|3||Clint Dempsey||Maybe Deuce is back; he got a much-needed goal and was all over the attacking third|