Toronto FC fans got to see the man of the moment, England forward Jermain Defoe, wear the captain's armband against his old club, and perhaps a glimpse of the future in Canadian teenage striker Jordan Hamilton.
It was the 18-year-old from Toronto who got on the scoreboard in a losing cause as Tottenham defeated Toronto 3-2 in a soccer friendly Wednesday on the strength of an 85th-minute goal by Andros Townsend.
Andrew Wiedeman and Hamilton had scored second-half goals to pull the home side even before a sellout crowd of 22,591 on a warm evening at BMO Field. Lewis Holtby set the table for the Spurs winner, driving towards goal before finding Townsend who curled a shot past Quillan Roberts, another homegrown teenager.
Argentine midfielder Erik Lamela scored twice for Tottenham in the first half before Toronto shot back in a far more competitive and entertaining second after the teams combined for 17 changes at the break.
"It was a different game," Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino said of the second half.
It was only the second pre-season game for Tottenham, with Pochettino reminding his post-game audience that "for me, it's another training session and it's game that was good for our supporters, to show our improvement."
In the first half, Toronto seemed to have one eye on its weekend league match with defending MLS champion Sporting Kansas City.
Defoe got no service
Defoe got virtually no service from his teammates and found himself having to take up the role of playmaker to get something going. The England star was substituted at halftime, one of seven changes by manager Ryan Nelsen. Veteran Dwayne De Rosario took over as captain and told his crew that change was needed.
"I just told the guys we didn't come here to spectate," De Rosario said. "This is our field, this is our home. We have to take it to them. I think we did that in the second half and we were able to put them under pressure and force them to cough up the balls where we could attack and counter-attack. We started to build confidence from that."
Said fellow second-half substitute Nick Hagglund: "We came in with the mentality to really press them and make them play well. And I think when we did that, we showed that they're human, that they make mistakes, just like us."
On a night where he was on the marquee, Defoe was largely on the outside looking in.
Defoe, 31, played 362 times in two stints with Tottenham before departing for Toronto FC in January. He scored 142 goals for Spurs, fifth on the club's career scoring list. Ironically Defoe just hit No. 5 on Toronto FC's all-time MLS scoring chart with 11 goals in 14 MLS games — evidence of the franchise's past scoring woes.
He said playing Spurs was strange but enjoyable.
"I suppose when I finish football and I look back on these memories and really reflect and think 'You know what," (about) all the years at Tottenham — it's a special club with special fans. A good bunch of players. Nice people," he said.
Defoe, balancing a plate of salmon, chatted with old Tottenham friends after the match before returning to the Toronto locker-room to do his media duties.
The game was part of Defoe's transfer agreement, which also featured a marketing deal between the two clubs. It's attention that the England striker clearly wouldn't mind doing without.
"I just love playing football," he said. "I always have done. I think at the age of 31 to still wake up in the morning and still enjoy training and look forward to every game, I still get the same buzz. And to me that's important."
Then again, he is making US$6.18 million this season, with the two cellphones sitting in his locker proof that he is by no means a hermit.
Spurs controlled the first 45 minutes against a makeshift Toronto lineup, controlling possession for long stretches and then dispossessing Toronto when the home side got it back. Tottenham outshot Toronto 10-0 (3-0 in shots on target) in the first 45 minutes.