Major League Soccer's perpetual lovable losers made a massive splash on Monday, signaling that more successful times may be ahead for them in the near future.
Toronto FC made the capture of their two new Designated Players official, introducing Jermain Defoe and Michael Bradley at a press conference on Monday. Both players were present at the press conference and took questions, with both reiterating on multiple occasions that they chose Toronto FC over other options after speaking to head coach Ryan Nelsen, general manager Tim Bezbatchenko and MLSE president and CEO Tim Leiweke.
While Toronto is not obligated to release salary information and has not done so, Defoe will reportedly earn $7.9 million per season, while Bradley will earn $6.5 million. In both cases, the players will be receiving a significant raise on their salaries with their previous teams.
Leiweke was quick to point out that, while this was a big day for the club, there was still plenty of work to be done. "We didn't accomplish everything today. We created a very good opportunity, but we haven't won anything yet," said Leiweke about his team, which has failed to make the playoffs in each of their seven seasons in MLS. He also made a point of thanking rapper Drake, who persuaded Defoe to come to his hometown of Toronto.
Toronto FC invited fans to the press conference, and they were vocal throughout, though especially during Defoe's introduction. "In life sometimes when a massive opportunity comes your way, it's not always easy to leave your hometown and the club you've been at for 9 years," said Defoe. "But to come here and get a reception like that, it's unbelievable."
Bradley made it clear during his introduction that he saw his move to TFC as part of a long-term project and that the leadership at the club was a major selling point. "I spoke with [Leiweke, Bezbatchenko and Nelsen] and what they're trying to build here is something really special, something different from what's going on anywhere in MLS. As a player you want to be part of something like that, at a place where people share your ambition and your drive. It took me two seconds to realize I was going to come to a place with people who understood that drive and commitment."
While introducing Bradley, Leiweke announced a partnership with AS Roma that will include two friendlies between the clubs and an exchange of players and training methods. Roma players will come to Toronto to train and vice versa when both clubs feel it will be beneficial.
The club also made note of other signings during their introductions, with Canadian international Dwayne De Rosario, who has just joined Toronto for his second stint with the club, present in the audience. Leiweke and Nelsen also made mention of Gilberto, the Brazilian striker who will join Defoe and Bradley as one of the team's three Designated Players. "I tell the players every day that we should strive for perfection. If I had the opportunity to pick three designated players, I'd have trouble picking three players closer to perfect," said Nelsen, making sure to point out that Gilberto is just as much a part of the team's big plans as the players introduced on Monday.
Toronto FC now has four designated players, which puts them over the league limit of three. Bezbatchenko noted that, while likely odd man out Matias Laba is still a Toronto FC player, he is exploring options in regards with what to do about Laba's status as their fourth DP. As Bezbatchenko noted, Toronto FC still has close to two more months before they need to be compliant with MLS roster rules.