The 26-year-old striker scored his first goal after a long injury layoff as the Reds steamrolled a hapless D.C. United side on Saturday.
TORONTO -- On a day when Toronto FC was playing an admittedly inferior opponent, it sure felt like a big win anyway.
The Reds defeated a shorthanded D.C. United side 4-1 at BMO Field on Saturday, thanks to goals from Darel Russell, Bright Dike and Alvaro Rey. Toronto's third goal was directed into the D.C. net by United's Conor Shanosky, but it came at the tail end of a good passing sequence that involved Rey and Dike, who both stood out for the hosts.
With Rey working the flanks and Dike proving to be a handful for the makeshift D.C. backline, TFC confidently overcame an early deficit to win against an opponent with one eye on next week's U.S. Open Cup final.
Regardless of the visitors' motivations behind fielding a weakened side, Toronto's own patchwork of relative newcomers, reserves, and even temporary coaches will take the win.
"A win's a win, regardless of who you're playing against," said TFC assistant coach Jim Brennan, who ran the show from the sidelines for the first time in his career as both head coach Ryan Nelsen and first assistant Fran O'Leary were serving suspensions. "It's always good to get a win."
Brennan's head coaching debut was bolstered by a fully fit Dike, who missed eight months of the 2013 campaign with a torn ACL suffered while he was still a member of the Portland Timbers. The American-born Nigerian international was traded to TFC earlier this month and made just his second start for the Reds on Saturday, scoring his first goal for his new club and -- more importantly -- the first since his injury.
"He's been fighting to get back into shape and fitness, and he came out here and he played 80-odd minutes and the boy ran his socks off today," Brennan said. "For the hard work he put in, he was rewarded with a great goal today."
Dike's 67th minute strike was a wonderful left-footed volley off a cross from Mark Bloom that would be considered for Goal of the Week honours if not for Russell's superb overhead tally earlier in the match. Either way, it punctuated a game in which Dike showed the kind of physical dominance and athleticism that prompted TFC to trade for him.
"It was just a great ball by Bloomy," Dike stated, preferring to direct focus towards his team rather than himself. "That's all you can ask for is teammates to make it easier on you and that's what he did for me."
Humility aside, Dike said he was glad to get his first post-injury goal under his belt.
"The first one is always the hardest," the 26-year-old said. "You've just got to keep pushing yourself for more."
With designated player Danny Koevermans out for the rest of the season and team-leading scorer Robert Earnshaw struggling with hamstring issues, Dike will likely see a lot of minutes for Toronto as 2013 winds to a close. That suits the big striker just fine, as he continues to transition from life as a rehabbing Timbers player to a present (and future) with TFC.
"I was hurt so they weren't really familiar with me," Dike said of the Caleb Porter-led Portland side. "But now this is my new family right here, everybody's been wonderful to me. They've welcomed me with open arms so you can't ask for better than that."