July 12, 2014 9:35 pm

Jermain Defoe a one-man wrecking crew as Toronto FC downs Houston

Toronto FC's Jermain Defoe, centre, leaps for a ball during the first half of MLS soccer action against the Houston Dynamos in Toronto on Saturday, July 12, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese

TORONTO – England striker Jermain Defoe set up two goals and scored two more Saturday night as Toronto FC rallied to defeat the slumping Houston Dynamo 4-2 in MLS play.

Defoe played provider for Jonathan Osorio and Dominic Oduro in the first half then scored himself in the 63rd and 89th minutes to help Toronto dig itself out of a 2-0 hole and snap a three-game winless streak. Defoe has 10 goals in 12 league games.

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Brad Davis scored twice for Houston, which has conceded a league-worst 38 goals this season, before an announced sellout of 22,591 at BMO Field.

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The loss extended the Dynamo’s winless streak to seven games – a 1-6 stretch that saw them outscored 19-4 and set a club goalless record streak of 480 minutes. Houston has not won in the league since May 17 (a 1-0 victory over the Los Angeles Galaxy).

The two team meets again next Saturday in Houston, after Toronto hosts the Vancouver Whitecaps in a midweek game.

A full-page ad in local papers welcomed the return of Toronto star midfielder Michael Bradley but manager Ryan Nelsen kept the U.S. international out of practice during the week in a bid to rest some niggling injuries. Bradley, who played some 60 minutes last week, did not even make the bench Saturday.

Brazilian Gilberto, recovered from a hip flexor, started on the bench as Nelsen showed faith in the all-English strike team of Defoe and Luke Moore.

Doneil Henry started at centre back in place of the suspended Nick Hagglund for Toronto.

Houston went ahead in the 13th minute, taking advantage of some Brazil-type defending by Toronto. English forward Giles Barnes waltzed past Henry and Mark Bloom before feeding an open Davis, whose hard left-footed shot from inside the penalty box beat Joe Bendik.

Brazilian winger Jackson forced a diving one-handed save from Tally Hall a minute later at the other end.

Toronto showed signs of life in the 29th minute when Hall had to palm a bending Jermain Defoe free kick over the bar. Henry shot wide on the ensuing free kick.

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But the home side paid for some more poor defending a minute later as Bloom and another defender went for and missed a Barnes cross, leaving Davis all alone at the side of the goal.

Toronto pulled one back in the 39th minute when Hall fumbled a Defoe cross. The ball fell kindly to Osorio who, thanks to an opportune move towards goal, knocked it in with his head.

Defoe played provider again on a counter-attack in first-half stoppage time after Barnes cut through the Toronto defence before losing possession and going down. While he lay face first on the turf, Osorio found Defoe on a three-on-two and the English forward slid the ball to an open Oduro on the right. Oduro’s first shot was blocked by Hall but he made no mistake with the rebound to register his 47th career MLS goal – and first for Toronto.

Toronto outshot Houston 10-4 (5-3 in shots on target) in a first half that saw four yellow cards (three to Houston).

The home side had a chance to go ahead early in the second half but Jackson, all alone, shot wide.

Oduro was substituted in the 58th minute but not before some delightful shake-and-bake down the right flank that left Houston defender Warren Creavalle twirling like a top.

Defender Steven Caldwell’s header was a smidge high on a 60th-minute Toronto free kick.

Defoe capped off a stylish attack after Jackson backheeled the ball to Osorio, who found Defoe. Spurning a teammate on his left, Defoe accelerated past two Houston defenders and sent the ball through Hall’s legs.

Barnes shot wide soon after, leaving Caldwell twisted on the ground. The Toronto captain was replaced by Bradley Orr.

Bendik had to be sharp several times in the second half, with a diving save and a good stop off a header.

Substitute Gilberto, meanwhile, shot just wide in the 84th minute of an entertaining game.

Defoe pounced on an errant back pass to come in all alone on goal as the clock wound down. Hall got a piece of his first shot but Defoe calmly went past him to knock the ball in.

The Dynamo have suffered in midfield from an injury to Ricardo Clark (concussion) and the World Cup absences of American Davis and Honduran Boniek Garcia. All three were back for last week’s 2-2 draw with the New York Red Bulls.

Saturday also marked the return of injured Houston defenders Jermaine Taylor (hip contusion) and David Horst (groin).

The Dynamo are 1-8-1 on the road this season, scoring seven goals while conceding 24.

© The Canadian Press, 2014

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