SEATTLE (AP) - While most of the attention was on Michael Bradley in his debut with Toronto FC, Jermain Defoe gave a reminder he can still be an elite striker.
The former Tottenham player scored twice in the first half of his Major League Soccer debut for new-look Toronto in a 2-1 victory over the Seattle Sounders on Saturday.
Bradley’s return to MLS from AS Roma drew the most focus and rightfully so. He was another American standout making the choice to return from Europe to the MLS in his prime, a move similar to what Clint Dempsey made last season leaving Tottenham for Seattle.
But Dempsey’s former Spurs teammate in England gave Toronto the victory.
“I think the most important thing is obviously winning the game,” Defoe said. “To score two goals in your debut that’s a dream.”
Defoe and Bradley were the centerpieces of a major offseason makeover by Toronto that also included the acquisition of Brazilian goalkeeper Julio Cesar on loan.
All three made their season debuts against Seattle after Toronto had a bye in the first week of the season. Defoe had the most influence, giving Toronto the lead in the 17th minute, then adding a second seven minutes later off a Seattle turnover.
After being known for underachieving it its MLS history, this remodel of Toronto could not have started better.
“For every person in this locker room, every coach, every person a part of this club it’s an important day,” Bradley said. “It’s only one game and we’re mindful of that. We still have a long way to go, a lot of work to be done. One game doesn’t make a season, but it’s each step along the way and today is a good step for us.”
Defoe came to Toronto about the same time Bradley’s deal was announced. The 31-year-old spent most of his professional career at Tottenham before leaving White Hart Lane for a new opportunity.
Defoe’s first MLS goal was a quick counter when he was able to find space between Seattle defenders DeAndre Yedlin and Djimi Traore. Defoe received a perfect through pass from Jonathan Osorio as he split the defenders and beat Stefan Frei with the right-footed shot.
His second, just seven minutes later, came off a sloppy, careless giveaway by Seattle’s Marco Pappa. Attempting to drop the ball back to a teammate, Pappa’s pass lacked enough force and instead fell directly to Defoe and he deposited his second goal in the first 25 minutes of his MLS career.
“I thought the guys were magnificent in the first half when it came to their football and magnificent in the second half when it came to their desire and character,” Toronto coach Ryan Nelsen said.
Dempsey scored in the 68th minute for Seattle as the Sounders put forth a massive push in the second half but could never find an equalizer. Dempsey also appeared frustrated especially in the first half by Seattle falling behind early and the amount of times he was chopped down in the midfield. The frustration boiled over late in the first half after a foul was called when Dempsey appeared to hit Toronto defender Mark Bloom in the stomach with his right hand. Officials did not see it, but it was caught by numerous television cameras.
Dempsey said he was trying to hit Bloom’s hand off his back and apologized to the Toronto defender.