But two games into the season, the signing of former Tottenham forward Jermain Defoe looks like the best move Toronto have ever made. In two games, Defoe has scored all three Toronto goals in a 2-1 win at Seattle and a 1-0 home win over D.C. United. His next opponents, Real Salt Lake, have definitely been paying attention.
“He's fast,” RSL defender Nat Borchers told reporters on Wednesday. “Speed kills in this game, and when you're able to time your runs well like he does, he's able to get into good spots and he's clinical. He's like Robbie Keane with more pace, and that's really difficult to account for.”
Keane was certainly on Borchers' mind after the Galaxy forward scored against Salt Lake in a 1-1 draw at Rio Tinto Stadium last Saturday. First-year Real Salt Lake head coach Jeff Cassar did not fault his defense for surrendering a lead and settling for a tie for the second week in a row.
“Our defensive shape for most of the game … we were much more organized,” Cassar said, compared to RSL's close-run 1-0 win over the Galaxy on March 8. The problem for the Claret-and-Cobalt was more on the offensive end of things. “We were just a little bit off on our possession and our attacking ideas. We just need to do a little bit better with the ball.”
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Cassar's players echoed those thoughts.
“We just weren't sharp in that second half, especially with our possession game,” Borchers said. “That's going to be the challenge this week in training: just to connect those passes and get more possession.”
One challenge for both teams will be playing on a Rio Tinto Stadium field that is in less-than-ideal shape, as even RSL players conceded.
“The field's bad,” midfielder Ned Grabavoy told reporters. “That's being nice.”
RSL officials said snow cover usually helps Rio Tinto's groundskeepers regulate the temperature of the field and maintain grass growth, but a mild winter never replaced the snow shoveled off to allow the team to train during last year's playoff run. Grabavoy made it clear he was not making excuses for RSL's lack of execution against LA on Saturday.
“Both teams have to play on it, obviously,” he said. “But it was difficult, I think, for both teams.”
Toronto should be familiar with sloppy conditions after their home opener against D.C. United last weekend was affected by the surface at BMO Field. But it did not prevent Toronto from continuing their hot start, and Borchers said he expects a better performance from RSL, who have been known to fall short of their best against weaker teams.
“I remember some games where we think we've got three points [before the game], and we play down to our competition,” said the towering center back. “Next thing we know, we're losing points. I think the better the team, the higher level this team plays.
"And that's got to be our mindset. So it's going to be a tough game for us. But, again, there's a lot of things we can do to improve for this next game.”