TORONTO – How about that for an opening goal?
Toronto FC’s struggling forward Gilberto finally opened his account in last weekend's 2-2 road draw with the New York Red Bulls, and the Brazilian forward finally got a chance to speak to reporters at training earlier this week about his peach of a free kick.
Gilberto’s first MLS goal came via a set-piece rocket that smacked the underside of the crossbar and rattled into the back of the net with lightning speed; it was nominated for AT&T MLS Goal of the Week.
“I think it was a goal of high quality,” TFC coach Ryan Nelsen told MLSsoccer.com after the match on Saturday. “I think Gilberto has the ability to do those sort of things. This will hopefully give him a lot of confidence and he can now really push on from there.”
That goal ended a long, impatient wait fuelled in part by the instant influence that fellow DP Jermain Defoe has had in front of net as well as the numerous chances that Gilberto created that either hit the post, crossbar or went just wide.
With the pressure mounting in each consecutive match, Gilberto also found himself facing new competition in the form of Luke Moore. Toronto FC supporters even began a Twitter hashtag campaign called #BeardsForGilberto, but the Brazilian says he never really felt pressure to score.
“There’s never been a weight on my shoulders,” Gilberto told reporters via a translator. “Football is a passion of mine and a love of mine, so I just play the game. There’s never really been that weight on my shoulders.”
Still, Gilberto was relieved to finally break his duck and get on the scoresheet.
“I felt very good in the game,” he said. “I’m happy to get my first goal. I’ve been going through a period of adaptation with the club, but now I’ve just got to continue that and put into practice what we’ve been doing in training.”
While the goal was sweet, the build-up to the finish was soured by an angered Defoe, who argued with Gilberto over who would take the free kick. Gilberto scoring ultimately saved Defoe’s blushes and the Brazilian says it’s been smooth sailing ever since.
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“It’s something that happens during the game,” Gilberto explained. “The attackers all want to score the goal, they want to score the free kick. It’s just part of the game. The emotions are high at that point so it’s just something that happens. Defoe and I are cool, we’re great, we’re friends, and we have fun in training together. It’s done.”
While TFC fans will be waiting eagerly to see what else he has to offer, they’ll have to wait a little bit longer, since the Brazilian striker came off with a hip flexor injury and will most likely be unavailable against Chicago on Wednesday (8:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE, TSN/RDS2 in Canada).
“It’s good for me to have this time off to just rest up my injury now,” Gilberto said. “I’m going to do some therapy and when I come back, I’m going to come back with more hunger to play.”