Will Defoe, Bradley lead to more wins for Toronto FC? | Soccer | CBC Sports

SoccerWill Defoe, Bradley lead to more wins for Toronto FC?

Posted: Monday, January 13, 2014 | 12:05 AM

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Toronto FC fans are hoping Tottenham Hotspur striker Jermain Defoe can help revive their MLS club. (Julian Finney/Getty Images) Toronto FC fans are hoping Tottenham Hotspur striker Jermain Defoe can help revive their MLS club. (Julian Finney/Getty Images)

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Toronto FC opened its wallet to bring in the high-profile Jermain Defoe and Michael Bradley, but the biggest question is will the additions result in more wins for Toronto FC?
Ready to fall in love all over again?


It all depends. You've been hurt before - you won't be hurt again.

It is an issue of trust. The size of the rock is irrelevant - you know what they're doing. They can't blind you with bling and expect you to forget everything like it never happened.

It did. You ended it. And you meant it.

Now they want you back. Now they have to show you they've changed. Really changed. Sure, they have money - they were never strapped for cash. They can buy the genuine article - not imitation knock-offs. But they cannot buy your unwavering loyalty. Not anymore.

They should not promise what cannot be guaranteed. Regardless of Tim Leiweke's bold prediction for Toronto FC in 2014, death and taxes are the only guarantees. He talks a good game and has put a bucket load of the company's money where his mouth is. He's determined to show the club means business. Haven't we heard that before?

Seven years ago a Scotsman told the world not to treat TFC like an expansion team. For a while we took him at his word -- almost all of us. We bought what he was selling but the goods were faulty.

Toronto FC took the money but didn't complete the repair. They tried to replace it but it still didn't work. Finally, they threw it out and bought the upgraded model in a final, desperate effort to impress.

Okay - we're impressed.

A-list goal scorer

Jermain Defoe is a bona fide A-list goal scorer.

His strike rate for club and country proves, beyond reasonable doubt, he knows how to convert chances into goals. He's a quick, instinctive poacher with two good feet and a major incentive.

Defoe wants to be on the England plane to the World Cup this summer. He has a short, perhaps too short, window of opportunity once his MLS career kicks off in March.

Defoe must start scoring virtually from the get-go to force his way onto Roy Hodgson's 23-man roster. He will have roughly eight games in which to convince the England boss he's in prime form and in the right frame of mind to be useful in Brazil. 

Defoe knows he's risking his England career by moving to MLS, but it doesn't have to end the moment he puts on a Toronto FC jersey. If he can score a minimum of five goals in those early games, Hodgson will have to consider taking Defoe to bolster his attacking options.

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But TFC fans may have to be patient yet again. Despite Defoe's undoubted ability, it will likely take time for him to fully adjust to the rigours of playing his soccer on a new continent. Travel, time differences, a North American summer, and subsequent fatigue will all take their toll.

He may come fresh to Toronto but he won't have had a pre-season in January, so his stamina will be affected during his first year. Kenny Miller and Marco Di Vaio are just two Europeans who have taken time to settle. In short, we're unlikely to see the best of Defoe until 2015.

Michael Bradley knows where he'll be in the summer. One thing's for sure - he won't be available to Toronto FC for at least a month as he anchors the U.S. midfield in Brazil.

Unlike Defoe, Bradley is virtually guaranteed a spot on the American roster, as a probable starter in the midfield engine room.

Bradley, like Defoe, has dropped down the pecking order at his European club, AS Roma, and needs to be playing regularly. At age 26, he didn't need to return to MLS to achieve that but money talks and a lucrative multi-year contract plus the relative comforts of home are tough to ignore.

Face of the franchise

While Defoe becomes the de facto face of the franchise - Bradley must be its new leader. His ability, experience and perhaps most importantly his attitude on the field and in the locker room must have a galvanizing effect on his new teammates. He must inspire those around him and impose himself on opponents.

The link between Bradley and Defoe is a vital ingredient. Without a creative supply line, Toronto FC is wasting its money. The arrival of promising Brazilian, Gilberto and the return of the prodigal son, Dwayne De Rosario, are crucial additions.

If Gilberto can have the same influence as his compatriots - Camilo in Vancouver or Felipe in Montreal - the Reds' offence will take some stopping. 

There is reason to expect Toronto FC will score more goals in 2014. Whether they can, at the same time, concede less remains to be seen.

Coach Ryan Nelsen has made only minor adjustments so far to a defence that leaked 47 goals last year. He has no more DP cards to play and though Bradley will help screen the back four, serious question marks remain over the quality of his defensive unit.

Ultimately, the team must gel.

Spending a king's ransom on new players gives a team a better chance of success but guarantees nothing. There are too many variables. Once again the infamous revolving door is spinning - and the bar of expectation has been raised before a ball has been kicked.

Defoe, Bradley and company will make a difference. The only difference that really counts is winning. It is the only way a team earns respect from fans and foes alike. The buzz will last just as long as the multi-million dollar overhaul delivers on a consistent basis. 

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