From MLS captain to being held at gunpoint in Ukraine: a must-read story


A new story in The Daily Mail brings up a bevy of conversation points from the political to the professional, and Colin Young’s report on the transition of Irish defender Darren O’Dea from Celtic to Toronto to Donetsk is an absolute stunner.

And while there are a load of interesting points on his time in Major League Soccer that called the article to our attention, his trials and tribulations playing in war-torn Ukraine are impossible to ignore.

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From monitoring whether the Russian or Ukrainian flag was flying outside his hotel to facing soldiers at gunpoint for the crime of trying to find a restroom, his time in Ukraine was a nightmare. O’Dea, 27, claims he was relieved to break his ankle because it allowed him to go home.

We’re telling you. Read this thing.

But O’Dea comments on his time in Toronto, which he loved, are really telling. They are just the opinion of one man who played one year in MLS, but he paints the league as a great experience, blames a rushed contract for his departure, and essentially labels TFC’s young players as spoiled brats.

O’Dea was courted heavily by TFC and in doing so received a contract that, in his words, gave him a bigger salary hit to TFC than Thierry Henry and Robbie Keane had to NY and LA.

From The Daily Mail:

‘The facilities are incredible, the best I have been in but the younger players took it for granted and they were not learning properly. They hadn’t earned the right to use those facilities.

‘There was great support for the team in the city, a big build-up to every game as only the Americans and Canadians can do it and I loved that intensity.’

Once a States-sceptic, he quickly embraced the MLS and its increasing popularity in a sports-mad country.

O’Dea said: ‘Portland was the best. They get a giant chainsaw out and chop a tree trunk if they score. If you buy into it, it’s brilliant.

‘The media come into the dressing room after a game and you could have had three cameras in your face while you’re getting changed. I was in their place and played by their rules. I was constantly asked to do things, especially as captain but I actually enjoyed it.”

O’Dea spoke of how he viewed the league as a retirement league only to find it was anything but. It probably helps that his most recent experience involved him not being able to see his family due to essentially playing in a battlefield, but his critiques on American players are very interesting. A youth club culture that does everything to keep young players happy shocked a veteran leader like O’Dea. That may say a lot, at least about Toronto a few years ago.