The rookie midfielder struck for his second heart-stopping goal as a late-game substitute in a month, rocketing the game-winner past lunging goalkeeper Milos Kocic in stoppage time to give RSL a dramatic 3-2 victory over Toronto FC at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday night and keep it from settling for a draw against the only team without a point in Major League Soccer.
"Great way to finish the game," midfielder Kyle Beckerman said.
For RSL, absolutely.
The victory snapped a three-game winless streak and kept the club even with San Jose for first place in the MLS Western Conference with 19 points from a 6-3-1 record.
But Steele's top-corner blast only minutes after he entered the game robbed Toronto of its first point of the season, dooming the Reds to their seventh straight loss and an inglorious place alongside the 1999 Kansas City Wizards as the teams with the worst starts in league history.
"It kills us, man, it really does," Toronto's Eric Avila said.
The Reds were on the verge of pulling off a stunning result, despite missing a penalty kick in the first half and allowing RSL to take the lead a second time on a second-half own-goal. It pulled even again on 18-year-old rookie Doneil Henry's header in the 77th minute, and managed to repel attack after attack in the final stages, until ...
RSL's Javier Morales made a deft move in the 93rd minute to cross the ball into the Toronto box, where Beckerman the team captain accounted for the first goal in the seventh minute lunged to just get a toe on it and settle the ball for Steele almost right on the 18-yard line.
"He set it perfect," Steele said, "and I just ran onto it."
It was the second time Steele has rescued RSL in the dying moments; his 89th-minute strike at Portland on March 31 tied the game, and allowed Beckerman to score the stunning winner in stoppage time of a 3-2 victory.
"Really pleased with his calmness on the ball," coach Jason Kreis said, "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."
Kreis insisted that even if his team had been forced to settle for a draw, he would have been pleased because he thought it played well, generating "a ton of scoring chances."
"On a different night, I think we win that game handily," he said.
On the other hand, he said, RSL could just as easily have lost, knowing Toronto had plenty of chances of its own as RSL pushed forward "like crazy" in search of the winner.
Twice in the final stages, the Reds had dangerous opportunities.
"If he scores one of those, we're probably really disappointed and maybe I'm banging my head against this wall behind me here for taking so many risks," Kreis said. "But fortune favors the bold, I guess, and when we're home, we know we go for three points."
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Storylines Victory from jaws of tie
R IN SHORT • RSL snaps a three-game winless streak by stunning Toronto FC 3-2 with a game-winning goal in stoppage time.
KEY STAT • RSL is 5-0-0 when scoring first.
KEY MOMENT • RSL's Jonny Steele scores the game-winner in stoppage time to send Toronto to its seventh straight loss.