The young Canadian opened the scoring with a bullet from distance that breathed life into a dull affair.TORONTO - The first leg of Toronto FC's Amway Canadian Championship semifinal on Wednesday night against the Montreal Impact looked to be a dire affair, with both sides struggling to deal with the biting wind off Lake Ontario as well as an apparent unfamiliarity among teammates.
The opening 45 minutes were some of the poorest soccer either team had played so far this year, and the second half seemed destined down that same path, until Doneil Henry put his stamp on the game.
The 20-year-old central defender stepped up to a juicy rebound at the top of the Impact penalty area and smashed a rocket into the top left corner that would have made any striker in the world proud.
The goal not only broke the deadlock between the rival teams, it breathed life into a moribund BMO Field.
"I don't know whatever happened, but the ball came sweetly back to me and I hit it pretty well," Henry told reporters after the match. "The excitement and the joy after to celebrate with my teammates, especially with my hometown team, it feels great."
The Henry strike led to an onslaught of TFC pressure, with Andrew Wiedeman eventually getting Toronto's insurance marker in the late stages. The match ended 2-0 for TFC, but it could have been a much more lopsided scoreline as the home side piled on 16 goal attempts to Montreal's four.
"Doneil's been very good for the past couple of months, to tell you the truth," Nelsen said. "He's been very strong, and you forget his age because of his stature and the way he carries himself. You forget he's so young."
Nelsen was quick to point out that while Henry's goal was the turning point in Wednesday's match, the youngster did well over the entire duration of the game to help guide his side to the positive result.
"The icing on the cake is the goal obviously, but for me I like to see what he did in the rest of the 90-93 minutes besides that little 10 seconds of brilliance," the coach said. "The other 93 minutes he was very solid and defended very well."
Henry echoed his coach's sentiment, saying that he was just happy to be contributing again after spending most the the season serving as a back up.
"Just getting back into the squad and being with the guys again and getting my first start, it feels really good," Henry said. "The coaches showed a lot of confidence in me and they've been teaching me a lot, so getting a goal and a clean sheet really means a lot to me."