TORONTO – When Toronto FC took a hard look at themselves after last year's MLS Cup Playoffs defeat at the hands of the Montreal Impact, it was decided that something was missing: a defensive rock.
In 2015 TFC scored a whopping 58 goals, but conceded an equal number; a frailty exposed.
The solution? Drew Moor, veteran center back and 2010 MLS Cup winner, who was signed on Dec. 16 as one of the first free agents in MLS history. With Moor in the lineup for 32 of 34 matches, Toronto allowed 19 fewer goals through the 2016 regular season.
And in the Audi 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs, Toronto have allowed six goals, five of which came in the wild Eastern Conference Championship series with Montreal.
Now on the cusp of Saturday's MLS Cup final against the Seattle Sounders, Moor recalled the December visit that preceded his putting pen to paper.
“They showed me the facilities, the training ground, the stadium,” said Moor on Wednesday. “I was able to sit down with Bill Manning, Tim Bezbatchenko and Greg Vanney. They let me know what their vision was, what they wanted this club to be, and how they were already in the process of doing that.”
“It was an easy choice,” he continued. “Talking with others in the front office, the commitment they had, what this club means to them – I already knew what it meant to the city – it was an organization I wanted to be a part of.”
But even such easy choices can be fraught.
“Leaving the Colorado Rapids, a club I loved so much, that were so good to me,” said Moor. “My wife [Shelby] and I loved Denver, the people. We were comfortable there. That was the hardest part, choosing to leave a place we loved. [But] I wanted to get out of my comfort zone, rejuvenate myself with a new club, refocus in a new city, a different country. It's worked out about like I would have wanted it to.”
Such a move, to another country no less, was not without challenges.
“Moving to Canada, logistically, can be tough. It's the little things: bank accounts, cell phones, finding a new place, [and] in the middle of it, I'm gone for preseason. We had to find a hospital, an OBGYN for my [then-pregnant] wife,” recalled Moor. “The club did everything they could to help and support us. Once we had the kiddo in May [Joey Moor, who joined his father on the pitch pre-match on Father's Day] we were able to settle in. [Toronto] certainly feels like home; we're very excited to be here.”
Moor's arrival from Colorado was unique. Though not the first – Justin Mapp's move to Sporting KC came two days earlier – he was one of the first MLS players to test the waters of free agency, a form of which was negotiated in the 2015 collective bargaining agreement.
“[Free agency] is an amazing process,” said Moor. “I'm so proud of the players, to stand up for [it] and of the league for allowing it. I hope more players continue to become free agents; get more choice and say in where they want to be. I've had a fantastic experience with it – maybe not everybody has – but it's rejuvenated myself personally.”
Nine days shy of a full year as a member of TFC, Moor has taken to his new home, especially the vibrant sport scene. He was on camera when the Toronto Maple Leafs scored a goal a few weeks ago, eliciting a fantastic reaction, and with TFC hosting MLS Cup, the support has been even more widespread.
“This city, and the way they love their sports teams is great,” said Moor. “I'm a huge sports fan, a Dallas [one], born and raised. [Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment] does everything they can to take care of their players; you want to pull for the team you have a partnership with, that you have a link to.”
That enthusiasm has been reciprocated, as stars of the NBA's Toronto Raptors, the NHL's Maple Leafs and MLB's Toronto Blue Jays have been showing their love for TFC the past few weeks.
“It's awesome. As a soccer player, a sport that is relatively young in the professional ranks, it's great to see big time players supporting TFC. We've supported the Raptors, the Leafs – even some of the Blue Jays players were at the last game,” noted Moor, a Texas Rangers fan still bitter about the Jays' playoff sweep. “And to see them reciprocating, it's pretty special.”