TORONTO — Nearly two months ago, Andy Iro said goodbye to Columbus, the club where he started his MLS career and helped win an MLS Cup in 2008.
On Saturday, his return to the old stomping grounds will finally come, as the hulking center back leads Toronto FC against the Crew (7:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online).
Iro was drafted by the Crew in 2008 and eventually started a career-high 25 games with the club last season, but he was was traded to Toronto on July 15 with midfielder Leandre Griffit for midfielder Tony Tchani. It was part of a massive overhaul for TFC, who needed experienced center backs because of injuries.
The Liverpool, England, native who carved his niche as a valuable defender in Columbus, fit the bill for the renovation project in Toronto.
“Hopefully they’ll appreciate the kind of effort I gave over four seasons there,” Iro said of the Columbus fans. “You know, like true fans, they’ll probably heckle. But I know it’s all part of the game.”
Iro’s 6-foot-5 presence has been a constant on Toronto’s back line. He has started all seven of Toronto’s regular-season games since he arrived, as well as three of the team’s four CONCACAF Champions League matches.
It’s been a welcome change this season for Iro, who had surprisingly fallen off a bit in Columbus, having appeared in just four games before he was traded. But whatever happened with the Crew coaching staff between 2010 and this year, he feels that he still had a good rapport with the club’s supporters.
“I tried to do a little bit here and there in the community,” he said. “I tried to make myself somewhat available to the fans with appearances. ... I didn’t ever hear them boo me, so I think that’s a good thing.”