Jermain Defoe’s first-half penalty proved the difference as Toronto FC achieved a narrow win over the San Jose Earthquakes at BMO Field.
The 31-year-old dispatched his spot-kick in the 20th minute as the Reds made it four matches without defeat.
New signing Dominic Oduro was available from the bench for the hosts, while the World Cup deprived the Quakes of Chris Wondolowski, who has seven in his last six against this opponent.
The game made a slow start in glorious conditions in Ontario, with the first action a nervy moment for Jon Busch as he spilled Jermain Defoe’s low free-kick. He had to be at his best though in the 24th minute to repel Nick Hagglund’s stunning volley, before the same player acrobatically shot just wide of the post.
The American full-back was causing havoc, and from a Collen Warner corner he won a penalty. The former Montreal Impact midfielder delivered from the left, and Alan Gordon clattered Hagglund with his forearm as the ball came their way.
Defoe stepped up and lashed home from 12 yards for his seventh goal in Major League Soccer. His compatriot and strike partner Luke Moore almost got in on the act four minutes before half-time, charging through the San Jose defence only to be denied by Busch.
Steven Cauldwell and Doneil Henry had dealt comfortably with everything the visitors had to throw at them in the first period, and that theme continued after the break.
With no notable action in the opening 19 minutes of the second half, Ryan Nelsen introduced debutant Oduro in Jackson’s place. The Ghanaian immediately caused a problem for the Earthquakes, with Clarence Goodson perhaps fortunate to get away with a yellow card for a blatant handball that prevented the new man from getting in behind the defence.
From the resulting free kick Hagglund again went close, just failing to direct Warner’s deep ball on target.
San Jose’s first clear-cut chance fell Steven Lenhart’s way, but the 27-year-old forward nodded straight at Joe Bendik. There was trouble at the back for Toronto a few minutes later though, as the goalkeeper fumbled a long throw and the all-action Hagglund was required to block from Cordell Cato’s goal-wards stab.
High balls into the box were starting to worry the Toronto backline, with JJ Koval’s volley from a looping over-head cross coming closest to an equaliser. Oduro’s pace created an opportunity for the home side on the break, but after some neat interplay Defoe couldn’t get on the end of a dangerous delivery from the left.
As it was, the England man’s first half penalty was the decider, moving his team temporarily up to fourth in the Eastern Conference.
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