Let’s call this the “Leiweke effect.”
Tim Leiweke promised this would happen, that he would make Toronto FC relevant again, that he could make beleaguered BMO Field a place that we needed to pay attention to again. He said so when he took over last year as president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE), promising to deploy all the know-how we saw when he built the LA Galaxy brand as president Anschutz Entertainment Group.
And by gosh, the man has made good on his word. In pretty short order, too.
Until this week, we could have had a good debate about which club had done more to aggressively improve its team during Major League Soccer’s short off-season. Only, Toronto would not have been a player in that argument.
Rather, it would have been down to D.C. United or Seattle, both of which have made prudent and bold moves after seasons that disappointed in two completely different way, but disappointed nonetheless.
Today, there’s no argument. It’s Toronto FC that has suddenly done the most to improve itself in the offseason. Yes, the acquisitions of Jermain Defoe and Michael Bradley are that significant.
And they become even more substantial when viewed in tandem. Defoe wouldn’t be the first talented striker to land at BMO Field (although he is surely the most talented). Others have suffered from the TFC condition; roughly speaking, the team wasn’t good enough around him, aimless in larger direction and devoid of players who could reliably, consistently provide service.
Bradley’s arrival gives the team a real brain, adding a hard-worker and genuine field general. Plus, his reported salary carries a certain weight , too, sending a message that TFC will be second to none in terms of cash outlay in efforts to compete.
TFC still has work to do; as finding the right defenders is now a priority at BMO (in addition to the salary cap management that comes with adding players of Defoe’s and Bradley’s caliber). Either way, TFC tops the list now in MLS off-season movers and improvers.