TORONTO (AP) — Jermain Defoe scored on a penalty shot and Toronto FC entered the World Cup break with a 1-0 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday.
Defoe’s goal came in the 26th minute, awarded when Nick Hagglund was pulled down in the box. The former Tottenham Hotspur star stepped up and sent the ball to the far left corner.
The afternoon marked Toronto’s last Major League Soccer game before the three-week hiatus for the World Cup, and coach Ryan Nelsen had said a victory would send his team into the break with added confidence and put the squad in a good spot in the league standings.
“We’re winning games now, we won that game 1-nil and we’re a wee bit disappointed to tell you truth with how we played,” Nelsen said.
“That’s where I hoped we’d get to was to start to get the wins and the crowd would be going, ‘We won but we didn’t play very well.’ I was praying for that time to happen. Most of the time in the past it was just praying for wins.”
The victory moved Toronto’s record to 6-4-1. San Jose dropped to 4-5-4.
Toronto had turned its attention to the MLS after its loss to the Montreal Impact in the Canadian Championship, which doesn’t count toward league standings, on Wednesday.
It was Defoe’s seventh goal with Toronto and fourth game winner, one shy of the franchise record.
“I’ve enjoyed it,” Defoe said, reflecting on his time in the MLS. “As a forward, I try to get off to a good start and hopefully relax and enjoy my football, and then I know the goals will come. Luckily the goals have come.
“Before you come you can never imagine what it’s going to be like. But it’s just been amazing, lucky to be at such a good club, where the players get treated right, playing with good players, a lot of young players, there’s a good team chemistry, team spirit which is always important. And I believe that we can do something special this year.”
Hagglund had several scoring chances, including two in less than a minute midway through the first half. On the first, he forced Jon Busch to make a diving save. The TFC defender sent the second shot just wide of the net.
He almost scored in the 68th off a free kick after some tense moments from Nelsen and his players. Newcomer Dominic Oduro was sprinting onto a pass in the air that San Jose’s Clarence Goodson reached up and stopped with his hand. Toronto players were arguing for a red card, but were awarded a free kick instead, which Hagglund headed just wide of the post.
Oduro, acquired in a trade Friday that sent Alvaro Rey to the Columbus Crew, came on in the 64th minute, and the fans soon got to see the speed for which the Ghanian midfield/forward is known.
The 28-year-old had a career-high 13 goals last season.
Toronto doesn’t play another league game until June 27 when it travels to the New York City area to face the Red Bulls.
NOTES: Toronto midfielder Michael Bradley (the U.S.), and goalie Julio Cesar (Brazil) are playing for their countries in the World Cup in Brazil.