TORONTO – On a day in which it was announced that he will be extending his stay with Toronto FC for the remainder of the current campaign and the next two years, former Birmingham City defender Steven Caldwell explained that a number of variables went into his decision to continue plying his trade in MLS following the expiration of his loan agreement.
While the desire for a new experience and the comfort of having his family in Toronto played a role, first and foremost, the veteran expressed his desire to play a key role in building TFC into a club with a winning tradition and a legitimate shot at winning MLS Cups.
“I had other options back home,” Caldwell told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday. “But I’ve been there and done it in the championship. I’ve experienced success there and I loved it and it was fantastic. But this is a different challenge and I have enjoyed the standard of the football.
“I still feel like I have got a lot of football left in me,” the 32-year-old defender added. “I feel really good physically and mentally. Hopefully I can be a success in the years that I am here and possibly longer, as long as my body feels good.”
WATCH: Caldwell confirms signing
As a defender who brings tremendous leadership qualities and an especially vocal nature on the backline, Caldwell has stabilized TFC’s back four and become the backbone of the club’s overall defensive formation. With his future now decided, he is now focused on building on Toronto’s improved form in recent weeks.
“I came here to be part of the future and what I think will be a very successful future,” Caldwell said. “I’m delighted that the club has been happy with what I have done over the past seven, eight weeks.
"I’ve loved what I have seen and I’m excited about the challenges ahead. [TFC head coach Ryan Nelsen] has been superb with me since I arrived here. I had a couple of chats with him before I actually arrived and he sold it to me that I should give up my summer and play through the last couple of months.”
Nelsen was quick to express his relief that Toronto and Caldwell were able to come to the terms necessary for the Scotland international to continue playing a vital role with his new club.
WATCH: Ryan Nelsen speaks to media
“It’s obviously a really good signing,” Nelsen said. “I don’t think this club has had a signing like Steven before and I think it is something the club has needed on and off the pitch. He is a really good professional and a great leader. It is something that we are really excited about.”
With just less than two months of MLS experience to his credit, Caldwell also explained what he believes TFC need to do in order to make the leap from a club that is competitive each week to one that is a consistent winner.
“I hope we can get some stability,” Caldwell said. “I think every club needs some stability to move forward and be successful. So we certainly need to settle on a balanced team and give the people here every chance to be successful.
“From what I have seen so far, the best MLS teams have been solid squads that have been together for a while and also have one or two bits of real quality,” Caldwell added. “So it is up to us to try and get that continuity and quality in the right areas, as well as togetherness. I’m hoping I can help with that last part because it is something I have been successful at during my career and I hope to do it here.”
Steve Bottjer covers Toronto FC for MLSsoccer.com.