SEATTLE, Wa. -- Major League Soccer has not always been easy for flashy signings. Lothar Matthaus infamously played 16 fruitless games for the Metrostars before quitting the sport. David Beckham endured a frustrating season and a half before the LA Galaxy righted the ship. Even the returning Clint Dempsey had eight goalless appearances before netting his first strike for the Seattle Sounders.
This is not a situation that Jermain Defoe can empathize with. Within half an hour of his MLS debut for Toronto FC, the England striker had scored twice, bringing the highly-regarded Sounders to their knees. Neither strike lacked quality: two powerful, composed finishes followed an excellent read of Seattle's offside trap and a pounced-upon back pass.
After the match, Defoe repeatedly asserted that getting the team off to a good start was more important than his individual exploits.
"The most important thing is obviously winning the game," he insisted, but he admitted he had enjoyed the brace. "To score two goals on your debut, it's a dream."
New teammate and fellow designated player Michael Bradley was not surprised by the former Tottenham man's red-hot start.
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"Everywhere Jermain's gone in his career, he gets goals," said Bradley, who forced the mistake that led to Defoe's second. "We knew that if you're able to get him the ball in certain spots, he's gonna put balls in the back of the net, and sure enough, he took care of it."
Head coach Ryan Nelsen concurred with the American midfielder's assessment.
"No. No, not at all," replied Nelsen when asked if Defoe's stunning debut surprised him. "It does take some players some time, but I've had the pleasure of playing alongside the man and watching him train.
"Once you see it day-in and day-out, you just know it's going to happen."
The numbers back up the perception of Defoe as a reliable scorer. In 591 competitive matches in his career, with Bournemouth, West Ham, Tottenham Hotspur, Portsmouth, Tottenham again, England and now Toronto, he's found the net 240 times. In nine separate seasons in England, he hit double digits. His return of 19 goals in 55 England matches is a roughly on par with the other goalscorer in his MLS debut, USA captain Clint Dempsey -- and usually against tougher opposition. Between Defoe's fantastic pedigree in England and his storming debut, it would be difficult to find an MLS observer not convinced he'll be a star on this side of the Atlantic.
One person whom Defoe does still have to impress is England manager Roy Hodgson. The 31-year-old is still fighting to make his second World Cup squad for the Three Lions, and there has been media speculation that a move to MLS could put him as a disadvantage. Defoe was an unused substitute in England's last match, a 1-0 friendly win over Denmark.
"Obviously with the England thing, it's gonna be at the back of my mind," he admitted. "But I'm sure if someone said to Roy Hodgson, 'you know, if you haven't seen, Jermain scored two goals,' then maybe he won't be surprised."
Few people would be surprised if Jermain Defoe makes the World Cup. Few would be surprised if he has a run at the single-season scoring title. Few would be surprised if his goals lead Toronto FC into the playoffs for the first time in club history. Impressed, sure. But not surprised. Jermain Defoe is the real deal.
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