Jonny Steele had been on the field only a few minutes, and already he was starting to worry.
“I was struggling to breathe right there ... when I came in” in the 82nd minute, he said. “I think it was the travel and the altitude. But obviously, it's hard. The first couple of touches, I was giving the ball away, so you're under pressure straightaway. And then, I said, 'I have to do something here, or I'm going to get took off.' So, banged it in.”
Bang it in, he did, striking for the stunning game-winning goal in stoppage time to give RSL a 3-2 victory over winless Toronto FC at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday night. It was the second time in a month that Steele has rescued the team at the end; his 89th-minute equalizer at Portland opened the door to a 3-2 victory in stoppage time.
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“He likes big ones," defender Chris Wingert said. "The guy’s a gamer and he loves to play. I love his competitive spirit. I’m just so happy for him and wanted to give him a kiss at the end. What a great feeling with that ending, but it was a little disappointing that we are letting up a couple of goals. It was a great win, and to be with our fans like that is just really exciting.”
“We really needed that three points,” midfielder Kyle Beckerman said.
Beckerman certainly did his part, scoring the first goal of the game in the seventh minute, and then lunging desperately to get a toe on a nice cross from Javier Morales, and leave the ball settled perfectly for Steele on the 18-yard line in the 93rd minute.
“I told Becks before, 'Look for me the next time,' because the one before, I thought was open,” Steele said. “So he took a touch and I ran off him, he laid it off, and I said [screw] it,” and let it rip.
“He set it perfect,” Steele added, “and I just ran onto it.”
Beckerman said his first thought was to take a shot himself, but that quickly changed.
“I saw it coming across,” he said, “and at first, I'm thinking, maybe take a trap and turn quick. Jonny screamed out, 'lay it!' … It happened so quick. I just laid it off, and he did the rest.”
The victory snapped a three-game winless streak for RSL, and kept it tied with San Jose atop the MLS Western Conference standings with 19 points from a 6-3-1 record.
While Steele said he'll be happy if he can contribute to the team and take his chances when they present themselves, coach Jason Kreis praised his work and his “calmness on the ball, to strike that and make sure he caught the frame and where he wanted it to. A lot of other players would hash at that, and it wouldn't end up on frame.”
Steele has started only twice, while coming off the bench seven times — only two of them for more than 19 minutes.
“I know that Jonny is going to want more minutes going forward,” Kreis said, “and if he keeps contributing in that fashion then he'll get more consideration.”