As a club that has stirred up as much controversy as it has recently, Toronto FC could have done without dramatically losing its captain in midseason. However, Major League Soccer’s highest-paid non-Designated Player officially parted ways with his former club on Thursday, less than a week after he left the team hours before a game.
On July 13, before Toronto took the field and lost 3-0 at Sporting Kansas City, O’Dea returned to Ontario to finalize his transfer to Metalurh Dontesk in the Ukrainian Premier League. Before he left, O’Dea was set to make a guaranteed $456,250 in 2013, a number Toronto FC could not sustain if it wanted to continue signing new players.
O’Dea told the Toronto Sun:
“[TFC] wanted me to be around for a number of years, but obviously, the contract I was on in relevance to the salary cap didn’t fit. … I was getting advised to not look at [Toronto’s extension offer] because it was a lot less than I can earn, but I actually did look quite hard because I was desperate to stay.”
The Sun also reported that O’Dea would make a “very significant” amount more money in Ukraine, although the player did not reveal his actual salary. Metalurh’s next match is a home game on Saturday against FC Karpaty Lviv, in which O’Dea is expected to play.
In the end, it was O’Dea’s massive contract that soured his relationship with MLS. O’Dea and his agent were adamant in multiple reports that he thoroughly enjoyed his time with the club, and he was as passionate a captain as one could expect, especially for a club near the bottom of the table. In 17 league matches in 2013, O’Dea played every minute.
However, after paying him DP-like numbers for a non-DP contract, it was always going to be difficult to negotiate him down to a more reasonable (by MLS standards) deal. With rumors of Toronto’s pursuit for a third Designated Player still rumbling, O’Dea never had a shot at that kind of upgrade. The club still needs to shed salary to be able to make another big signing and still be underneath the cap.
At 26, O’Dea has an impressive resume that includes the Scottish Premier League’s Celtic FC, as well as three English Championship clubs and 19 caps for the Republic of Ireland. It’s hard to fault a player of his stature for wanting to maintain — or improve on — the unrealistic contract he had in Toronto.
In the end, Toronto has nobody to blame but itself.