This past week Toronto FC have added Jeremy Brockie, Tal Ben Haim, and Steven Caldwell to their roster as Ryan Nelsen once again turned to loan deals to try and strengthen his side. With Brockie having two years left on his deal with Wellington Phoenix his loan is a bit different from the other two as both Ben Haim and Caldwell are on contracts that will expire this summer. That means that both of them could sign for Toronto FC on a permanent basis at any point during their loan spell should they manage to impress the coaching staff. Bringing in Brockie long-term would be more complicated and almost certainly involve paying a transfer fee of some kind to Wellington to secure him beyond the end of his initial loan deal.
Caldwell and Ben Haim have both made names for themselves playing for some of England's most storied clubs for much of their careers. Despite Kevin Payne's over-the-top statements about their abilities neither player has ever been a top Premier League defender even though Ben Haim has spent time with Bolton Wanders, Chelsea, Manchester City, and most recently Queens Park Rangers. He has not played a whole lot of competitive soccer in recent years though so it is hard for anyone to really say what he is going to bring to Toronto.
Ben Haim has only managed to make 5 appearances for QPR since signing a short-term deal with the club in January. Prior to that he was playing in the Championship with Portsmouth where he made 33 appearances during the 2011-2012 season but that ended in a bit of a mess in August of 2012 with the club facing severe financial troubles. Ben Haim was making a large wage so when the club was liquidated he would have been forced to take a large pay cut but instead he came to an agreement to leave the club. That means that since the spring of 2012 when Portsmouth's Championship season wrapped up until now he has only made 5 competitive appearances leaving questions about just what he will be able to offer with TFC.
Steven Caldwell is more of a known commodity. He has spent time playing in the Premier League with Newcastle United, Sunderland, Burnley, and Wigan Athletic but the bulk of his career has been spent as a solid Championship defender. Caldwell has also been a fringe international for Scotland over the years but would be best characterized as a journeyman player as he never really managed to make a name for himself on the biggest stages.
Caldwell spent the last two seasons playing with Birmingham City in the Championship and until recently was a key member of their defence. Towards the end of the last season he found his place in the lineup being filled by younger players and was eventually informed that the club would not be offering him a new contract. That is what led him to move to Toronto FC on loan as he continues to look to land a permanent deal somewhere.
Waking the Red caught up with Eric Jones who has been a fan of Birmingham City since 1955 and despite living in Victoria, BC is the leader of Canada's official Birmingham supporters group. He saw plenty of Caldwell over the past two seasons and this is what he had to say about Toronto's defensive addition:
During his time at Birmingham City Steven Caldwell has been an outstanding team player. He was captain of Birmingham in the 2011/12 season when Blues did very well in the Europa League. He is a central defender who reads games very well and is a leader on the pitch and in the dressing room. During the 2012/13 season Steven did not play as much with a different manager. I think this is in large part because he is an older player who lacks pace. Toronto F.C. will welcome him as a strong presence in the team. On another note his brother also plays central defence for Wigan and will be in the F.A. Cup Final this weekend.
The description really lines up with the resume in that he is a solid player but is not going to bring much more than that to the team. Granted, Toronto is in no position to turn down solid defenders as the back-line continues to show a real lack of leadership as they continue to concede late goals. Caldwell brings with him the kind of experience that one would hope will provide a calming influence and only make those around him better. The fact that his lack of pace was one of the reasons given for losing his place in the team this season is slightly concerning though as Toronto fans have seen their fair share (and then some) of defenders undone by a lack of pace.
With his brother Gary Caldwell gearing up for an FA Cup final and having played over 100 matches for both Wigan and Celtic it seems that Toronto has settled for the lesser of the two brothers but at least it is good to see that Bluenoses have good things to say about Steven Caldwell and aren't excited to be getting rid of him.
It remains to be seen what kind of role that Caldwell is used in with Toronto FC and what the arrival of three more internationals means for the roster but it is a safe bet that change is in store as Nelsen is clearly growing frustrated with his defenders conceding late goals game after game.
With Toronto getting the weekend off it is possible that some of the recent additions will be ready to play when they take to the field against Columbus on the 18th. With all three just wrapping up seasons fitness should not be an issue and they could be looked to for an immediate contribution.