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10.09.2019 02:41
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TORONTO -- Toronto FC general manager Tim Bezbatchenko calls it a revolution and the MLS team is rolling out the big guns. Former league MVP Dwayne De Rosario came back on board Thursday and England striker Jermain Defoe is to be unveiled Monday. It looks like the Spurs star will be joined by U.S. international midfielder Michael Bradley. While Toronto FC officials twisted their tongue into knots Thursday trying not to say anything about Bradley when asked, AS Roma issued a release later in the day saying the American had been sold to Major League Soccer for US$10 million. A source with knowledge of the league subsequently confirmed that the Bradley move to the MLS had passed another significant hurdle. The source also said Toronto FC was the MLS club pursuing him. It represents a remarkable shopping spree, one that should jolt life into both Toronto FC while further adding lustre to Major League Soccer itself. Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment is shelling out millions to turn what has been the MLS doormat for seven years into a world force. A club official rejected reports that the combined bill for Defoe and Bradley is C$100 million including wages and transfer fees, but the real number probably isnt that far south. Like any other sport, the big boys of soccer come with big price tags. And MLS teams may have to overpay to overcome European snobbery. For a team yet to make the MLS playoffs, Toronto ownership is thinking big -- well beyond mere post-season play, according to Bezbatchenko. "We want to be internationally recognized as a top club," he said after welcoming De Rosario back at a packed news conference at BMO Field "We want to be competing internationally ... Theres a certain type of player you need to achieve those (goals)." Defoe, 31, and Bradley, 26, will do nicely. The 35-year-old De Rosario, a Toronto native who left the club in 2011 after a contract dispute, adds experience, class and local appeal. Up until now, the only thing world-class about Toronto FC has been its training centre -- a C$20-million-plus complex that probably rivals all but the top clubs in Europe. Poor results have led to management and player turnover which have led to poor results which have led to management and player turnover. MLSE president and CEO Tim Leiweke, who helped bring David Beckham to MLS, is not one for half-measures and, with the backing of the MLSE board, has opened up the vault for Bezbatchenko and manager Ryan Nelsen. The team has a vision -- and buckets of cash to back it up. "In all honesty it wasnt a really hard sell when you just tell them where were going to go," Nelsen said in describing his sales job to De Rosario. Unfortunately for De Rosario, under the MLS salary cap rules, only a few get to cash in. De Rosario, who ranks sixth on the all-time MLS scoring list with 103 goals, made US$654,300 in 2013. He will undoubtedly earn less in Toronto, but said his return to Toronto is about more than money. "For me right now its about winning ... You cant put a price on that," he said. Its a comment that speaks volumes about todays De Rosario, who once was all about the numbers on his paycheque. Remember the 2010 goal celebration that saw him pretend to sign a cheque, by way of showcasing his financial discontent in Toronto. Once seemingly more concerned about the De Rosario brand than anything else, the veteran midfielder has changed his stripes in recent years. With the national team, he has worn the captains armband and, at a Canada training camp in Arizona in early 2013, went out of his way to connect with younger players. The new galaxy of TFC stars will probably have to build bridges with their lesser-paid teammates. Fullback Ryan Richter, for example, made US$34,125 last season while several others made US$46,500. MLS is a league of have- and have-nots. Most Toronto players will be more acquainted with a Metropass than a Porsche. Jordan Hamilton isnt complaining, however. Toronto FC also announced the signing of the 17-year-old academy product Thursday. "A dream, come true," said the young forward. A dream that may include training next to Defoe. "To be practising alongside Defoe, what more could a 17-year-old ask for," Hamilton said with amazement. While MLSE is spending big, Nelsen says the teams salary cap is actually in better shape that the bottom line bloated with bad contracts that he inherited last season. As he noted, designated players may cost millions but their salary cap hit is US$390,000 The arrival of Defoe and Bradley as designated players, along with Gilberto and incumbent midfielder Matias Laba means that Toronto has four DPs -- one over the limit. Laba is the odd man out, with Nelsen only saying at this stage that there are contingency plans. As Nelsen points out, the MLSE board has dug deep into its pockets because it believes this is smart spending. In the short term, improvements are needed to retain and build on the 14,600 season-ticket base. With an average attendance of 18,131, the franchise ranked 10th in the league. MLSE will have looked longingly at Seattles league-leading average of 44,038. But MLSE also wants to overhaul and expand BMO Field, likely pouring in C$100 million-plus to add a roof and refit the bare-bones stadium to allow for football and other events. The 22,00-seat capacity BMO was built on a $62-million shoestring, probably less than what Defoe and Bradley will cost. Leiweke mused recently about Toronto hosting an NHL Winter Classic, likely timed with the Maple Leafs 100th anniversary season in 2016-17. A revamped BMO could also host outdoor music festivals, which were another string to the MLSE bosss bow when he ran the Anschutz Entertainment Group. AEG is the second-largest music promoter in the world (behind Live Nation), staging tours by Justin Bieber, Bon Jovi, Prince and Taylor Swift and running events like the New Orleans Jazz Festival, the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival and Stagecoach Festival. Leiweke, a music fan who has attended Coachella, already has a big-name local music buddy in Drake, MLSEs global ambassador who helped sell Toronto to Defoe. De Rosario, Defoe and Bradley will sell tickets -- and more than a few jerseys. Defoe is a charismatic striker with an eye for goal, although one club official mused that recently signed Brazilian striker Gilberto may score more goals this season. In return for a huge investment, the compact East Londoner offers Toronto FC respectability (55 caps for England) as well as scoring chops (more than 200 goals in all competitions). He will also serve as a club ambassador, charming and entertaining off the pitch. Bradley will run the midfield. Add Brazilian midfielder Jackson and U.S. international fullback Justin Morrow to the young roster that remains from a six-win 2013 season and Toronto FC promises to be interesting watching when the season opens March 15 in Seattle. For the league, its compelling evidence that the North American league is a legitimate soccer destination. "We want to be leading the way," Bezbatchenko said. "The transformation this club has undergone the past three months is indicative of where were headed and what we want to do with player signings," he continued. "We want to be top-class in the league, in every way." While some fans -- following Leiwekes Leaf dreams -- may be planning the TFC parade route, his braintrust knows there is more work to be done in turning around a squad that went 6-17-11 last season. Exhibit 1 is the Toronto Blue Jays, whose shopping spree produced little more than disappointment last year. Nelsen knows an expensive bill does not necessarily make for a fine meal. "Look, were improved as a team. Everybody can see that. Were better. Were going get better. Are we the finished product? No, not at all ... Weve got a lot of work to do." He welcomed the pressure to win. "Love it, everybody loves it," he said. "Players want that, everybody want that, the coaches want that." Improvement will be an ever-present mantra, he added. Bezbatchenko, meanwhile, was not about to puncture the fans balloon. "Let them have their fun. Lets let our fans enjoy the moment because we are making trades, we are signing Dwayne, Gilberto. Were signing some really exciting players. "So let them have their moment because its going to be a fun ride." De Rosario clearly adds some class to the journey. He took time out during his moment at the microphone to note that Canadian national team coach Benito Floro was in attendance. As with the national team, he will also help mentor a young roster. Twenty of the 26 players on TFCs current roster are 25 or younger. Toronto selected De Rosario in Stage 2 of the MLS re-entry draft last month after D.C. United opted not to pick up his option at the end of the season. Nelsen called him a "legend" of Canadian soccer but said De Rosario would have to adapt his game to the demands of the team and his body. "All the great players redefine their roles on the field, in their training schedules, everything on and off the field. When you get to a certain age," said the 36-year-old Nelsen, speaking from experience De Rosario, who turns 36 in May, isnt taking any steps back, however. "Im a goal-scorer, Im a winner ... Im here to win, Im not just here to be the local kid coming back." When a reporter suggested he was in the "latter stages" of his career, De Rosario politely disagreed and said the competitive juices are still flowing. But the 13-year MLS veteran did say Toronto would be the last stop on his playing career. All it took was "a simple phone call," albeit not one De Rosario ever expected after his earlier disagreements with the franchise. He admitted it helped that the previous regime had all left. NOTES -- Nelsen confirmed that English fullback Richard Eckersley will not be coming back due to his hefty contract. Striker Robert Earnshaw has yet to respond to a contract offer, but Nelsen believes that the Welsh international will move on in a bid to get playing time. The manager also said other clubs are interested in U.S. forward Bright Dike and, while he would like to keep him, he will have to listen to any good offers. Dave Casper Jersey . Hemsky left the Oilers Tuesday night loss to the Dallas Stars in the second period and did not return. Through 48 games this season, Hemsky has seven goals and a total of 24 points. Bo Jackson Raiders Jersey . -- With the Memphis Grizzlies struggling to find their offensive rhythm, O. . Case in point: LeBron James vs. Ben McLemore. James was driving to the rim in the first quarter and McLemore decided to try to take the charge, which was quite admirable and predictably futile. Howie Long Raiders Jersey . As for regular Olympic spectators, theyre being warned that most travel insurance policies wont cover acts of terrorism or war. The Games in southern Russia, which run from Feb. 7-23, are being staged amid unprecedented security and under global warnings of danger. Clelin Ferrell Jersey . His apology came before a pregame ceremony in which the team honoured its 2004 team that won Bostons first World Series championship since 1918. "I realize that I behaved bad in Boston," Ramirez said.The Calgary Stampeders won the 102nd Grey Cup 20-16 over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Take a look back at all the highlights and storylines and each teams journey to the Grey Cup. Stampeders jump out to big lead, hold on to beat Ticats in 102nd Grey Cup Bo Levi Mitchell carried the Calgary Stampeders to a Grey Cup title Sunday. Mitchell threw for 334 yards as Calgary held on for a thrilling 20-16 win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at B.C. Place. The six-foot-two, 196-pound Texan was calm and precise on the field, completing 25-of-34 passes in his first career Grey Cup start. He was named the games outstanding player. More... Stamps QB Mitchell named Grey Cup MVP; Ticats Fantuz top Canadian Calgary Stampeders quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell is the Grey Cups outstanding player. Mitchell threw for 334 yards as Calgary held on for a thrilling 20-16 win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at B.C. Place. More... Schultz: Emotions and pride were obvious at 102nd Grey Cup With the Grey Cup wrapped up and the Stampeders crowned champions, TSN football analyst Chris Schultz explains how the emotion of the event and the level of personal pride could be seen simply by looking at the players faces - especially during pre-game introductions. More... Stampeders arrive home short on sleep with reasembled Grey Cup The Grey Cup arrived in Calgary in one piece. It was the Stampeders who looked worse for wear. Quarterback Bo Levi Mitchells eyes were half-open and the voice of head coach and general manager John Hufnagel cracked as players and coaches rolled off a pair of buses at McMahon Stadium on Monday just past noon. More... Grey Cup: Bo Levi Mitchell Conversation Bo Levi Mitchell sits down with James Duthie and jokes about riding a horse after winning the Grey Cup, comparing prevvious championships to this one, and more.dddddddddddd More... Grey Cup: Coachs Playbook - What happened on Reed penalty Coach Paul LaPolice shows you every angle of Taylor Reeds penalty and what the officials on the field are looking for and why it was the right call in the end. More... Ticats coach Austin says Grey Cup losses will stay with him the rest of his life A split-second decision. A fluttering penalty flag. Lives changed. The Ticats had plenty of chances to win the 102nd Grey Cup on Sunday. But people will point to the illegal block by Hamilton linebacker Taylor Reed that negated a 90-yard Brandon Banks punt return with just 35 seconds remaining as the turning point. It will stay with me the rest of my life. For the rest of my life. Just like last year, coach Kent Austin said. I hate losing. Just like everybody in that locker-room. More... Must-See: Banks potential game-winning return called back Down by four points with less than a minute to play, Brandon Banks breaks the punt to the outside and is gone, but the potential game-winning return is called back for a block in the back putting a dagger in Hamiltons Grey Cup hopes. More... Grey Cup: Stampeders journey to the Grey Cup The Stampeders made their Grey Cup intentions known very early in the season, playing arguably the most consistent football throughout the year, despite missing Jon Cornish for a good stretch of time. Revisit their season-long journey to the Grey Cup. More... Grey Cup: Tiger-Cats journey to the Grey Cup After stuttering to a 1-6 start, the Tiger-Cats had to dig deep to make an incredible turnaround which ultimately led them to their second consecutive Grey Cup appearance. Have a look back at the best and worst from their up and down season. More... ' ' '

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