SPORTS

TFC rookie Luis Silva hopes to play before family and friends in Los Angles

03/13/2012 05:23 EDT | Updated 05/13/2012 05:12 EDT
Luis Silva is living the dream.

And Wednesday night, the Toronto FC rookie may be doing it before friends and family at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., in the second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarter-final against the MLS champion Los Angeles Galaxy.

"All my family's going to be there," said the soft-spoken Silva. "Some high school friends, coaches, college friends as well."

So how big will the Silva cheering section be?

"Honestly I don't know," he said. "But I think there's going to be a lot.

While coach Aron Winter hadn't announced his starting lineup as of Tuesday, Silva's goal in last Wednesday's 2-2 cup tie in Toronto served as compelling evidence that the 23-year-old midfielder belongs at this level.

And TFC hasn't even kicked off the MLS season.

Some slack Galaxy marking allowed captain Torsten Frings to find the five-foot-11, 170-pounder all alone near the penalty spot. Silva rose majestically and used his head to flick the ball into the far corner past a diving Josh Saunders.

Silva peeled away to celebrate the goal then sank to his knees and crossed himself before raising his hands in the air.

"It was a really emotional moment for me," he said. "I dreamed of this day. To know your first game, you're going to score — that's something amazing.

"I was just thanking God for all the things he's given me."

Then it was off to corner for a little dance with Joao Plata. The two have become fast friends.

"He's definitely a great player," Silva said of the 20-year-old winger from Ecuador. "Really humble person and we get along really well."

Beyond the goal Silva proved to be calm and collected on the pitch, asking for the ball and knowing what to do with it.

Silva called his parents and uncle after the game.

"They said they started crying (when he scored). It's something really nice, it's something amazing, something you're not going to forget."

For Silva, just playing is a bonus — let along scoring.

"It's something amazing. I always dreamed of this day but I didn't know it was going to come this soon," said the fourth overall pick in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft.

The heroics came before a crowd of 47,000-plus under the dome at the Rogers Centre.

"I was trying to stay focused the whole game," said Silva. "Obviously when we came out, you can see the fans. It's an incredible atmosphere and you get the chills.

"Especially for me — first time ever playing in front of that many fans. It was really nice."

Silva grew up in Los Angeles and went to the University of California Santa Barbara, about an hour and a hour away. The school calls itself Soccer Heaven.

Growing up, he used to go see the Galaxy at the Rose Bowl, watching the likes of Cobi Jones and Kevin Hartman. He also sat in the stands to watch both the Galaxy and Chivas USA at the Home Depot Center.

But he grew up following Italy's Juventus and Spain's Barcelona.

Silva reports he is settling in nicely in Toronto, where he lives downtown and uses the streetcar to get to BMO Field.

Teammate Eric Avila, who played at UC Santa Barbara before him, has offered tips on Hogtown

"It's an incredible city," Silva said. "I'm liking it there a lot. It's just a matter of getting used to the weather a little bit."

After the first-leg result, Toronto has to win, play to a 2-2 tie and win in overtime or penalty kicks, or play to an even-higher scoring tie to advance.

"We're feeling good," said Silva. "We have 90 more minutes to go and get a good result, bring that win back home."

Winter has more options for Wednesday's game with midfielders Julian de Guzman and Nick Soolsma both back from suspension.

Unlike Toronto, the Galaxy played on the weekend — losing 3-1 at home to Real Salt Lake. The loss was the first for L.A. at home since the end of the 2010 season. The Galaxy was unbeaten in 23 games last season at the Home Depot Center.

NOTES — An all-Panamanian officiating crew will work Wednesday's game with Roberto Moreno in charge ... Portland winger Kalif Alhassan has been named MLS player of the week. Alhassan scored one goal and helped set up two more in the Timbers' 3-1 comeback win over Philadelphia. Vancouver attacking midfielder Sebastien Le Toux was runner-up.

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