Defoe and company change the face of Toronto FC

Image from theguardian.com

There’s no avoiding the undeniable truth – Toronto FC has been one of the worst teams in Major League Soccer. The Canadian club’s MLS tenure promised much, but has delivered little. Delivered nothing, in fact.

Apr. 7, 2007 marked TFC’s inaugural MLS match – a game they ended up losing 2-0 to Chivas USA. It was an omen of what Toronto FC fans would get used to. TFC and losing matches went hand-in-hand.

Although not much was expected of the team in their first season playing in the MLS, Toronto finished dead last, with the worst points total of all 13 teams in the league and only six (6!) wins out of 30 regular season matches.

Maybe next year would be better? It wasn’t.

Toronto again showed a lack of talent and the inability to record wins, only nine this time, as they finished last in the Eastern Conference. The only teams worse were Western Conference sides LA Galaxy and San Jose Earthquakes.

The next two seasons were, by TFC’s awful standards, actually not that bad. The team finished fifth in the Eastern Conference twice in a row.

Unfortunately, Toronto FC quickly regressed into the uninspiring team that their fan base was accustomed too.

Toronto’s last three seasons have seen them place second-last in the Eastern Conference, dead last in the entire league (only a meagre five wins this time), and then finally second from bottom in their conference last year.

Toronto FC’s MLS adventure has been riddled with disappointment, lack of direction, and less hope of making the playoffs than Nicklas Bendtner has of winning the FIFA Ballon d’Or.

But finally, there looks to be a light at the end of the tunnel for TFC.

A monumental week in Toronto FC history has perceptions of the Canadian-based MLS team changing rapidly.

It began with great news for Toronto fans – fan-favourite Dwayne De Rosario, the face of TFC during his two-season spell at the club, was returning.

“DeRo”, since his departure from TFC, has spent time at the New York Red Bulls and DC United. DeRo scored 27 goals in his first stint at the club, and his return is a step in the right direction.

Although the 35-year-old can’t be expected to be Toronto’s sole saviour on the pitch, his addition is a massive boost for the fan base and will elevate the atmosphere around the club.

But the acquisition of DeRo was just the beginning.

The following day, Jan. 10, Toronto confirmed the signing of the highest-profile player the team has ever had – former Tottenham striker and England international Jermain Defoe.

Defoe, despite not being first-choice for Tottenham this season, is a player who is still fully capable of scoring plenty of Premier League goals.

The fact that he turned down alleged offers from bigger teams to join TFC in the MLS should not be taken lightly – Toronto have secured a fantastic striker.

Defoe scored 90 goals in his Tottenham career (as well as many others for both West Ham and Portsmouth) and the London-born frontman brings a plethora of experience and goal-scoring ability to Toronto FC.

Still capable of getting the better of Premier League-calibre defences, it’s a wise bet to say that although Defoe, 31, is past his peak as a player, he will still enjoy a very productive MLS career.

But with a midfield as weak as Toronto’s, fans were struggling to see just who would be creating chances for their newly acquired striker.

Have no fear – TFC’s astonishing statement of intent doesn’t stop at Defoe.

Although official confirmation from Toronto FC is still needed, Serie A side AS Roma announced Thursday Jan. 9 that Michael Bradley was being sold to an MLS team for a record $10 million US.

Unless the entire media industry has been duped, it looks inevitable that Bradley will be joining DeRo and Defoe in Toronto.

Bradley, like Defoe, brings a wealth of European experience. The American midfielder has played over 200 matches (combined) in Holland, Germany, England and Italy, and if TFC complete the transfer, they will have punched above their weight for the second time in only a few days.

Unlike Defoe, though, 26-year-old Michael Bradley comes to the MLS right when he is reaching the peak of his career – a fact that makes his acquisition all the more impressive for both TFC and Major League Soccer itself.

Toronto has made the MLS – and even the world, to a degree – sit up. Toronto have gone from whipping-boys to fascinating project in a matter of days, and TFC fans will be filled with excitement for the upcoming 2014 season.

After years of lacklustre football and abysmal results, Toronto FC finally look set to establish themselves in Major League Soccer.

The success of these signings can’t be taken as a guarantee, although it would take a catastrophic screw-up for Defoe and Bradley to fail to take Major League Soccer by storm.

But one thing is certain – Toronto FC will never be the same.

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