Toronto FC coach Greg Vanney hailed Tosaint Ricketts as his club's "secret weapon" after the forward scored in a 2-0 first-leg playoff win over New York City FC on Sunday.
Ricketts, 29, journeyed through Finland, Romania, Norway, Turkey and Israel before signing with Toronto FC in his native Canada in July.
And on Sunday, he helped disrupt the NYCFC defense in the build-up to Jozy Altidore's opener before finding the net himself in stoppage time.
"He's like a secret weapon, though not much secret anymore," Vanney said of Ricketts' impact after the game. "His speed and relentless running ... The last thing you want to do as a tired defender is to chase that guy. If you get in a footrace, you're sure to lose it.
"It's great to have a guy who you can turn to who has that kind of mentality and that kind of pace."
The game was goalless until Altidore found the breakthrough in the 84th minute, and Vanney said he was happy that Toronto had something to show for their hard work.
"We wanted to get the goal," said Vanney. "If it had ended 0-0, it wouldn't have been the worst night ever, but it was never our intention. We wanted at least one out of it, make sure we kept the zero on the other side. It took a long time, but they were rewarded in the end."
Toronto FC captain Michael Bradley praised his teammates for sticking with the plan of the attack until the goal came.
"Our fearlessness to step up and go after them was a big part of the game," Bradley said. "[NYCFC] are a good team; organized, have a clear way of going about it. It was a hard, tight, fast game. Two teams that weren't giving each other an inch.
"That mentality and willingness to stay after it paid off in the end."
Altidore added: "We knew the chances would come. It was just a matter of putting them away. It's difficult to be patient in a game like this; we were and the rewards came to us."
Vanney was satisfied with the result but said the job was far from done.
"It's a good score line," he said. "Nothing means anything until we finish this off in New York. We're halfway there; we have a lot more still to do."