Oct 8, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto FC forward Jermain Defoe (18) looks on against the Houston Dynamo at BMO Field. The Dynamo beat FC 1-0. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
This past offseason for Toronto FC was an eventful one to say the least. After years of disappointment and never making the MLS Playoffs, the front office had to do something. They had to show to their fan base that they are committed to making Toronto FC a success.
This past offseason, the signings they made, led many to believe Toronto may be the class of the Eastern Conference. Along with Michael Bradley, Gilberto, and a slew of other signings, a big reason for that was the signing of Jermain Defoe.
When Defoe was signed from Tottenham on January 10th of this year, everyone was intrigued. Everyone saw this as an obvious improvement to the front line, and for the first half of the year, he was proving his worth.
Defoe came to Toronto with an extensive goal scoring pedigree. Defoe left a league where he was the 14th highest scorer of all time with 124 goals. He has also scored 19 goals for his country. So to say Defoe knows where the back of the net would be an understatement.
Defoe’s knack for finding the back of the net was the reason fans of Toronto, and MLS fans in general, were so excited to see him come to the States. Jermain Defoe wasted no time showing his talents off in MLS either because he netted the only two goals for Toronto in their opener, a victory over Seattle.
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That run of form continued for much of the first half of the season. In the first 13 games he played in for Toronto, he scored 11 goals. Unfortunately for him, and Toronto, that was all he scored this season.
So what happened? What was the difference between the first half and the second half of the season?
I want to take a look at this because much like Jermain Defoe’s season, Toronto’s season went along the same path, a solid first half with a poor second half.
Defoe picked up an injury near the beginning of August which had him out for the majority of the month. That injury killed his momentum that he had already built up. He returned for 76 minutes on August 23rd, but did not play after that until October 4th because he re-aggravated the injury.
What may have played an even bigger part (obviously only affecting the games in which he was fit for) was the controversy surrounding him at the end of August/beginning of September. As the FIFA Transfer Window was nearing a close, there were a lot of rumors circulating that Jermain Defoe may be on his way out. There was more to it than that though.
On August 31st, Toronto head coach, Ryan Nelsen was fired. During the press conference for that firing, Toronto GM, Ted Bezbatchenko, answered questions about Defoe and he implied that Toronto would entertain offers for Defoe and they would speak with him and determine what is best.
One of the biggest pursuers of Defoe was Queens Park Rangers. The rumors gained even more traction when it was reported that Defoe was in England around the time of these rumors. Although nothing did come about, it certainly did raise questions about how committed Defoe was to Toronto now that Ryan Nelsen was gone.
That question of commitment still remains. Defoe returned for three games in October before missing last week’s game with an injury. It seems as though he will miss Toronto’s finale as well, leaving Defoe to end his superb start to the season with a sour finish.
The question now is whether or not Jermain Defoe will be back with Toronto next season. The rumors are sure to be back in full force around Defoe in January, and this time, Toronto may actually cash in.
Defoe’s career got off to such a promising start here at Toronto. That promising start ended around halfway through the year though and he hasn’t made an impact since. Unfortunately that was when Toronto was fighting to make the playoffs. Now Toronto fans will be looking to January to see if Defoe makes it through the transfer window.
If he makes it through, fans will be hoping he stays healthy and finds that good form he had at the start of this season. If not, this new era for Toronto, the era that was supposed to make Toronto an annual playoff team, may have ended before it ever got started. Toronto will have to look again for playmakers and pieces to fill in throughout the season.
Defoe will surely be looking to return to his beginning of the season form next year, whether that be for Toronto or someone else, perhaps QPR. Whatever the case may be, Defoe’s injuries definitely played a big part in the unraveling of Toronto’s playoff hopes. Now that their playoff hopes are gone, Toronto will look to finish its season on a high note, with a win, but without Jermain Defoe.