Toronto FC’s stars shine in season-opening win

CesarBradleyTFC (USATodaySports)

Photo by Steven Bisig/USA Today Sports

By LEE PRINDLE

SEATTE – Much was made in the offseason about the amount of money Toronto FC spent to revamp their roster.

Toronto’s high-profile off-season signings made their highly-anticipated MLS debuts on Saturday in Seattle and they did so in style as Toronto FC beat the Sounders, 2 – 1, on the back of a Jermain Defoe double. Joining Defoe in his first appearance was fellow designated player Michael Bradley as well as Brazilian national team goalkeeper Julio Cesar.

After becoming president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, the company that owns both Toronto FC and the Toronto Maple Leafs, Tim Leiweke pledged to win back the support of fans in the only way he could; spending money on high profile signings in an attempt to bring Toronto FC out of multiple seasons of irrelevance. And spend he did, as Toronto reportedly committed over 100 million dollars in the signings of Michael Bradley, Jermain Defoe, and Gilberto. Add to that the out of the blue Julio Cesar loan agreement and the impressive Toronto FC makeover is complete.

One could forgive fans for being skeptical. A look at their past designated players shows a mixed track record with expensive experiments such as Mista, Julian De Guzman, and Torsten Frings. They’ve cleaned house, brought in new players, and seemingly turned a new leaf before. But that skepticism was set aside on Saturday as Defoe led the line in front of Bradley’s calming midfield presence for Toronto’s first season opening victory since 2009. Aside from Clint Dempsey’s goal, Julio Cesar was strong between the posts, making a few important stops in an otherwise routine day.

“We’ve got a vision of where the club wants to be. We’re trying to take steps forward and how big those steps are are determined on days like this. It was a good step forward.” said head coach Ryan Nelsen. Defoe’s signing is a big part of that vision and his talent will be vital to taking those steps. “That’s why he’s been at the level he’s been at because he can do those sorts of things. Once you see it first hand, there’s a reason why he’s scored so many goals.” said Nelsen.

“The most important thing is obviously winning the game, and to score two goals on your debut, it’s a dream.” said Defoe after his man of the match performance. “It was good, it was fast. Different leagues, you have to adapt. It’s an experience that I’ve always wanted. I enjoyed the game, and even more so when you win.”Playing in his first MLS match since 2005, Bradley was elated. “I couldn’t be more excited to be back. To be a part of [days like this] is why I’m here,” he said.“We understand that there’s still a lot of work to do. Nobody knows that more than me, but still everybody should walk away from today feeling good.”

Toronto FC will continue the season with their home opener against DC United next Saturday.

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42 Responses to Toronto FC’s stars shine in season-opening win

  1. bob says:

    good luck DC…

  2. QuakerOtis says:

    That was a really entertaining game with some of the highest quality play I’ve seen in this league. Good job to TFC and the Sounders.

  3. Green76 says:

    Toronto looked great! Nice play from the goalie, midfield, wings, and quality finishing. Just wait until they get to know each other and start to gel.

  4. El Homer Simpson says:

    I’m curious how Gilberto will acclimate to the league, or how deep the forward group is. If Defoe makes the World Cup squad for England, or gets injured, they will be missing him for some time, due to the camps before the World Cup and the tournament itself. Same with Bradley.

    • mowe says:

      Gilberto is the big question mark. His performance will determine if TFC make the leap from good to great.

  5. krolpolski says:

    Isn’t Julo Cesar’s first name pronounced HOO-lio?

    Why were the announcers pronouncing it JOO-lio?

    • Ives Galarcep says:

      Joo-lio is the Brazilian pronunciation.

      • KingGoogleyEye says:

        Neither is correct. In Portuguese, the “J” is soft, making a “dj” sound like the “s” in “measure.” (Some think of it as a “zh” sound.)

        See also: Jose Mourinho.

        • Ives Galarcep says:

          Depends on what Portuguese. Brazilian and Portugal Portuguese are different.

          • KingGoogleyEye says:

            No Ives, not for the “J” sound. Only Spanish pronounces it “Hoolio.” Neither Spanish nor Portuguese (Brazil or Portugal) say “Joolio.”

    • Increase0 says:

      link to forvo.com

      I found this. For more fun try to guess how to say Fred’s name.

      • KingGoogleyEye says:

        It is “Fredgy” (rhymes with “edgy”).

        • Increase0 says:

          I know, its great isn’t it. Almost Fredgshee?

          There is almost a shhh in the middle of it. Brazil has some great names. Michael Jackson and John Lennon play together on a club team down there.

          • KingGoogleyEye says:

            the “shhh” you sometimes hear is from southern Brazil, especially Rio. I believe it is more similar to Portugal pronunciation.

          • KingGoogleyEye says:

            Incidentally, it’s extremely uncommon to pronounce any word with a hard consonant ending in Portuguese. Thus, Fred becomes “Fredgy,” Brasil becomes “Brasioo,” Cesar becomes “Cesah” (unless you’re from Rio, then you roll the R a bit), and Willian becomes “Oo-willianh” (where your tongue doesn’t quite touch the roof of your mouth to complete the N sound). “S” and “Z” at the end of words are pronounced, but those are soft consonants.

            Portuguese is beautiful.

            • Travis in Miami says:

              Or it sounds like you one is talking with their mouth full of food….or it’s beautiful…

          • GW says:

            In 2001 Northern Ireland had Neil Lennon (midfielder and current Celtic manager) and George McCartney ( defender) on the squad.

            Unfortunately, there has never been an Irish international with a surname of Harrison or Starr.

  6. Drewbles says:

    Watched the match and enjoyed what I saw. Bradley really bossed the midfield, making tackles and providing pressure when Seattle players were not expecting him to be there. I will definitely make time to watch their home-opener, as Toronto has had great support even when they were awful, so it should be a good display.

  7. KingGoogleyEye says:

    I’ll preface my comment by stating the obvious: TFC won. So whatever they did, they did enough of it to matter in the end.

    That said, I can’t understand how anyone who watched the match would think that “Toronto looked great!” or that “Bradley bossed the midfield.” The Sounders totally dominated possession (68%) and the ball spent most of its time on TFC’s side. Bradley made only 39 successful passes, but 19 unsuccessful and lost 21 tackles.

    The truth is that TFC’s defense was outstanding, playing taller than Seattle’s attack so the dozens of crosses couldn’t connect with their target. TFC’s defense was also tight, clogging up the lanes so Seattle could rarely break through. (Of course, that’s easier to do when you play a 9-behind-the-ball counterattacking game like TFC.)

    • Drewbles says:

      Because I actually watched the match and didn’t try to analyze it from “Soccer Stats” but instead by what my eyes told me?

      • MLSsnob says:

        I also watched the match and I’ll have to agree with the King on this. I thought Seattle outplayed Toronto for the most part but got caught on the counter. As far as playing the more attractive style and looking better, I’ll go with Seattle.

        • Drewbles says:

          I don’t know, Seattle really only seemed to make any kind of progress in the final third by going to the right side with Yedlin overlapping. Everything else seemed to be locked up pretty tight.

          • Weston John says:

            Remick was overlapping a ton…boy was flying up the left.

          • KingGoogleyEye says:

            Remick on the left matched Yedlin on the right. (I actually thought Remick had a better game.) His crosses into the box were well-placed, but TFC’s defense managed to clear out nearly every one.

        • KingGoogleyEye says:

          MLSnob: let’s not forget that Defoe’s second goal was from an absolute gift from Pappa. Pappa was barely being pressured when he gave up that sloppy back-pass.

      • KingGoogleyEye says:

        Drewbles: I attended the match. Pretty sweet seats at the half line too, thanks to a friend.

        I listed the stats so that it wasn’t merely my word against yours.

        Bradley did well in the center of the field, but not the midfield. Sounders maintained possession, which means they controlled the midfield. You can take that as a knock against Bradley if you wish, but you shouldn’t.

    • TomG says:

      Stats don’t really tell the tale in this at all. Toronto got off to big early lead and didn’t have to force the play. They allowed Seattle to play with the ball around the perimeter, but as soon as they got into a dangerous area Bradley was there to snuff it out. It seemed like he was everywhere. He covered a ton of ground. It’s true he was not nearly as clean on the ball as he usually was. Some of it seemed to be trying too hard to make something happen out of the gate. Some of it was the turf. A lot of it was clearly not being on the same page as his teammates. All those things should improve.

      • TomG says:

        BTW, where do you get your stats?

      • KingGoogleyEye says:

        TomG: “Stats don’t really tell the tale in this at all.”

        I find it strange that you say that because the stats I listed completely agree with the tale you told: “Toronto got off to big early lead and didn’t have to force the play. They allowed Seattle to play with the ball around the perimeter (i.e., 68% of possession), but as soon as they got into a dangerous area Bradley was there to snuff it out (i.e., but had nowhere to pass to because everyone except Defoe was behind the ball, hence Bradley’s poor pass completion rate).”

        btw, I would credit TFC’s backs for the win even more than Bradley. Remick and Yedlin dropped balls into the box all game.

    • beachbum says:

      you make some good points but perhaps there are a few more to add to this.

      TFC took it to Seattle in the first half, Seattle was not good in that half, Cesar hardly touched the ball or saw a threat, and that half ended up deciding tactics the rest of the way. Seattle got after it down 2 goals at home and pushed numbers forward especially along the flanks in the second half, but how many times did Michael make his mark turn back to their own goal and pass back, or not be able to turn and end up having to pass back? A lot. the middle of the field was closed down pretty well by all TFC but I bring up Michael because you tried to use stats alone to define his afternoon which lacks context imo.

      Anyway, Alonso and Bradley were a blast to watch play in the midfield of an MLS game. That was some quality soccer for long stretches, those two typically in the middle of things. really fun match to watch, looking forward to seeing both of these teams play live this year a few times each!

      • QuakerOtis says:

        +1

      • KingGoogleyEye says:

        beachbum: I think maybe you misread my comments about Bradley. I don’t think he played poorly, not by any means. His team won, and he was a big part of that.

        Everything you say about his defending in the final third is true, but I don’t think that qualifies as “bossing the midfield.” It could be called “bossing the final third,” but the midfield is the middle third.

        I was lamenting to my friend after the match that I had hoped to see more of an Alonso v Bradley battle. He felt that Alonso outclassed Bradley, but I argued that the match didn’t allow that comparison. Sure, Alonso had twice as many passes as Bradley, but that’s because Bradley ran a defensive team while Alonso’s was offensive. Totally different game plans (maybe not before the match, but definitely after that second goal).

    • Green76 says:

      I watched the game and I think Toronto looked great and Bradley bossed the midfield. Seattle played well too and that was part of why I enjoyed the game so much. Bradley did a good job shutting down the middle and forcing Seattle out wide where they were largely ineffective. Osorio’s pass to Defoe was quality as was Defoe’s finishing. Toronto looked calm and in control when they had the ball or not because they were. It was an impressive performance from my point of view and I look forward to seeing more.

    • GW says:

      Having a striker who is as sharp as Defoe can make up for a multitude of sins.

      That is why they pay him the big bucks.

      TFC looked like what they are; a team from all over the place who have been together for about a week or two. I assume they will get better as the season wears on.

  8. Andrew Wardwell says:

    A weak spot in a league becomes a strength. That’s a good sign for the league. Owners willing to enter and spend.