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Verbal fisticuffs ensue between Toronto FC, Philadelphia leaders

Feb 8, 2014, 8:40 PM EDT

Nick Sakiewicz

Feel free to take a side as the inevitable questioning over Toronto FC’s bank-breaking off-season spending spree gains speed.

Thing is, this isn’t two tipsy Joes in cheapo replica jerseys at the end of some soccer friendly pub – these are fellow MLS officials giving each other the business in public!

It was bound to happen. Supporters and members of the chattering class have had our say about TFC’s audacious dash for glory. Heck, even Toronto front man Tim Leiweke, architect of the deals in question, does not always sound 100 percent convinced the deals make sense from a pure business perspective.

In comments to The Philly Soccer Page, Union CEO Nick Sakiewicz questioned the wisdom of TFC’s recent high-dollar moves, the ones that have netted England international Jermain Defoe and U.S. midfield general Michael Bradley.

I get frustrated when I see people say how smart Toronto is spending $90 million. I’m not sure how smart that is.”

He wondered aloud whether Bradley at somewhere around $6 million a year is better value than Maurice Edu at something near $1.5 million?  It’s a fair question.

Bradley is a better player. He has a higher profile. He’s the best U.S. national team player in a year where so very much attention will be going to that very national team. Bradley wears it all well, and he’s a fabulous addition to the league.

Plus, TFC is a place where Leiweke might have to overspend to get the project out of a hole; remember, the team has still never tasted playoff soccer.

But $6 million? Even before adding Edu and his salary to the calculus, prominent voices in the domestic game immediately began wondering if Bradley could have been had for something less, perhaps substantially less?

Past that, the usual big market-small market arguments seem to have Sakiewicz in a frothy lather. That was probably inevitable, too. After all, soccer is just catching up with baseball and other American sports in that regard.

The Philly Soccer Page story wasn’t really about Edu, Bradley or TFC; it had a bigger sweep, starting with the Union boss addressing rumors of his own demise. I’ll boil that part down for you: “Buncha bunk,” he essentially says.

But the comments directed toward Leiweke proved to be the eye-raisers. Leiweke responded professionally in comments to the Toronto Sun, defending Bradley before asking everyone to recognized what he thought was apples to oranges in marketplace. It’s a great point, too.

Everyone has their own marketplace. On ours, we’ve sold 17,000 tickets in three weeks. We’re going to have a packed stadium every game this year. Our ratings are going to be great. Our merch sells are going to be great. … In our world, with our fans, with the commitment they’ve made the last seven years, we owed them this. This is about our business and our relationship with our marketplace. We knew people were going to shoot at us. The shooting has begun.”

  1. talgrath - Feb 8, 2014 at 9:39 PM

    As always, the question of how wise spending the money was boils down to the results. if Bradley brings in the fans and the merchandise and some success to Toronto then it certainly is money well spent. Honestly, a team that wanted to pay Maurice Edu over a million dollars doesn’t have much room to gripe about Toronto paying Bradley six millions dollars.

  2. sabatimus - Feb 9, 2014 at 2:14 AM

    Verbal fisticuffs? What next, a contradiction in terms?

    • 127taringa - Feb 9, 2014 at 3:46 PM

      Talk about oversensitivity! Just a couple of guys expressing their opinions.

  3. bellerophon30 - Feb 9, 2014 at 10:18 AM

    I feel sorry for Maurice Edu, he had a nice career moving along there: A most of the time starter for the USMNT, a solid role with a team that won trophies and was in Champions League every year (Rangers), and then……..

    I’m sure that Rangers’ difficulties hamstrung a lot of careers, it certainly didn’t do Bocanegra any favors, but Mo really got screwed by it. The Stoke move was a disaster, and now he’s being brought into this argument, through no fault of his own. He’s a really good player, and I often wonder if Kyle Beckerman has a voodoo doll of Mo somewhere, since he’s now got Mo’s spot on the USMNT.

    But he’s not Michael Bradley, our best outfield player, whose best football should happen during this contract. He’s worth the extra money to Toronto for his football, his name recognition, and that Toronto has a crap history and needs to pay a bit above the norm to get someone like that.

    And this all leaves aside how incestuous the MLS ownership structure is, and whether the Philly guy should even be allowed to comment on how another team spends its money. We’ve heard reports that Bradley turned down flat another franchise for a move….makes you wonder if it was Philly. Which is not a small market, I’m sorry.

  4. soccerkickin - Feb 9, 2014 at 12:53 PM

    In the end it’s about establishing a soccer culture in Toronto as well as helping re-establish a fanbase that was there at the start but has dwindled along with TFC’s performances the past few years. Overpaying? Possibly but these types of moves help pay dividends for years to come. I’m sure players have taken note, some that maybe might not have considered the MLS before.

    But ultimately it makes soccer sense as Dafoe/Bradley will drastically improve Toronto and league quality. They’re trying to recapture a fanbase that has left and this surely will.

    The thing is, Union are complaining but it is a move that will benefit everyone. If you’re neighbor improves their house and makes helps make a nicer neighborhood – you’ll benefit too. Same with this. It’s not like Leiweke hasn’t already proven it works, how much did Beckham cost versus the increased exposure, recognition and in the end money that all owners will benefit from. In the end he also helped LA win two titles so it was a win-win.

    Union can stick to signing the Maurice Edu’s of the world (a great move by them BTW) but they shouldn’t complain. I’m sure they’ll be selling more tickets to the Toronto game, hopefully TV numbers increase with this (and it being a WC year) and new contract will be bigger. In the end it will make for a better MLS and they’ll benefit too from Toronto’s expenditure.

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