Toronto FC's 1st goal stands out for Dichio

Scoring the first goal in Toronto FC history stands as one of the most special moments in the 16-year career of Danny Dichio.

'It was 3 years ago, but I still remember it like it was yesterday.'

Toronto FC's Danny Dichio, left, announced his retirement Wednesday following a 16-year career playing professional soccer. ((Aaron Harris/Canadian Press))

"And finally! Remember the name! Remember the date!"

While CBC Sports soccer commentator Nigel Reed's memorable call provided the soundtrack, Danny Dichio supplied the inspiration that led to the first goal in Toronto FC history.

After being shut out in the first four games of its debut season in Major League Soccer, the Canadian club broke its scoring drought on May 12, 2007, when Dichio found the back of the net in a 3-1 win over the Chicago Fire.

Dichio scored dozens of goals during a 16-year career as a pro that included time spent with English outfits Queens Park Rangers and Sunderland, and a brief stint in Italy with Leece and Sampdoria. He also bagged 14 goals in 59 appearances for Toronto, and he still ranks as the club's all-time leading scorer.

But scoring against Chicago on that fateful sunny afternoon stands out as one of the most special moments in his playing career.

"It was a massive occasion in my life and my career, not only for me but for the club, as well, and for all the fans," Dichio said during a Wednesday news conference in which he officially announced his retirement at age 35.

"That [memory] will always stay with me."

It would be impossible for Dichio to forget.

Fans sing his praises

Renowned for his combative and confrontational playing style, the six-foot-three Dichio cemented his status as a club icon when he scored the franchise's very first goal.

To this day, whether he's on the field or not, TFC fans still burst out into song and chant his name in the 24th minute during home games — his goal against Chicago came in the 24th minute — a tribute to the most popular player ever to wear the team's trademark red-and-white jersey.

Nigel Reed's "Remember the name. Remember the date," call is a phrase that TFC fans have taken to heart, much to the delight of Dichio.

"It's good that the fans still remember that day and I think we all remember it," Dichio said. "It was three years ago, but I still remember it like it was yesterday."

The Englishman's monumental goal also prompted delirious fans to hurl giveaway seat cushions onto the field in one of the wildest scenes in recent Toronto sports history, resulting in the game being halted for 10 minutes.

Dichio said he never saw anything like that happen in his career, and while he was blown away by the outpouring of emotion, the English striker admitted that the subsequent devotion that TFC fans have showered him could have easily been bestowed upon one of his teammates if they had scored instead.

Dichio maintains he was simply in the right place at the right time when he tapped the ball into the net after Edson Buddle played a square pass into the middle of the box.

"It was the sheer emotion of the day and a relief that we scored," Dichio stated.

"It could have been anyone that day and God was looking down on me and I was lucky enough to put the ball in the back of the net. It wasn't a great goal by any means but it set us off on our way."

Toronto's first victory also saw Dichio get into a fight with a Chicago player, resulting in a red card and his automatic expulsion from the game.

Afterwards, the media huddled around him in the locker-room, with one reporter asking him if he had ever heard of NHL legend Gordie Howe and what it felt like to register a "Gordie Howe hat trick" — a goal, a fight and an ejection all in the same game.

"Gordie who?" replied Dichio, who had only arrived in Canada a few weeks earlier and didn't know the slightest thing about the national pastime.

Times have changed since then.

After three years of living in a hockey-mad city, Dichio admits he still "really can't get into" the sport.

But Dichio, one the city's favourite adoptive sporting sons, did become a permanent resident of Canada earlier this year, and he and his growing family (his wife is expecting the couple's fourth child) plan to make Toronto their home for years to come.

"This city, this team and these fans have a special place in my heart," said Dichio.

The feeling is more than mutual.