When TFC head coach John Carver briefed the media after Thursday's practice, he mentioned that he had hoped to complete a trade before Saturday's game against the Columbus Crew.
He didn't identify the player involved, but did reveal that whoever it was wouldn't be here past this season.
|STEVE RUSSELL/TORONTO STAR|
|Throwing the new guy on the pile just for this season.|
It's not unusual for sports teams making a push to the playoffs to acquire an impact player with an expiring contract, hoping the guy can help them reach the promised land before he leaves town. But it's not quite normal for the coach hoping to bring him in to then dismiss all possibility of bringing him back the following season.
The next day TFC announced that had received defender Hunter Freeman from the New York Red Bulls in exchange for a pair of supplemental draft picks.
Freeman arrived in Toronto Friday morning, took part in a short practice session for his new (temporary) team, then played 90 minutes in Saturday's 1-1 tie with the Crew.
Afterward he confirmed that while he enjoys what he's seen of his new city and teammates, he in fact has zero intention of playing in Toronto -- or anywhere else in MLS -- beyond this season.
He's already lined up another job.
Raised as I was on North American sports, I struggle to understand how teams can offer contracts to guys who are already under contract, but that's what happened with Freeman.
His MLS contract is set to expire after this season and Freeman says the New York Red Bulls couldn't promise they would re-sign him for 2009, nor could they guarantee they wouldn't cut his salary (guaranteed $71,160) if they did bring him back.
Enter IK Start of Norway's premier league.
In mid summer -- Freeman can't remember exactly when -- they offered Freeman both a contract and a raise.
In North America we call that "tampering," but in soccer you just call it business.
For Freeman it wasn't too tough a choice.
"It was either wait and see what the unknown was, or take what the team in Norway was offering," he said.
Freeman chose Norway, where he'll join former FC Dallas defender Clarence Goodson with IK Start.
The decision also made him expendable to the New York coaching staff, who, Freeman says, told him they wouldn't play him after he informed them of his deal in Norway.
With no chance to bring him back in 2009, the Red Bulls were happy to unload Freeman for a pair of late round draft picks. With a glaring lack of back line depth, TFC were glad to grab Freeman and put him straight into the starting lineup.
And with a long-awaited chance to play, Freeman seemed happiest of all.
Still, he says his new contract (which stars in January) and the pay raise it promises won't distract him from his current task -- helping TFC salvage the season.
"(Accepting IK Start's offer) was a decision I had to make for my future," he said. "It doesn't affect what I'm doing now."
-- Morgan Campbell