The MLS Transfer Window may be closed, but that hasn't stopped Toronto FC from making moves. After adding both Jeremy Brockie and Steven Caldwell to its ranks, Toronto continued to reinforce the roster, picking up Israeli international and Premier League defender Tal Ben Haim from Queens Park Rangers.
The deal, a loan move, sees Ben Haim move to his fifth club in as many years. Ryan Nelsen speaks highly of Ben Haim, but a loan signing is par for the course for players coming in. With 71 international caps to his name, Ben Haim is a regular for Israel, and with over 300 games in England, mostly in the Premier League, he certainly has the necessary qualifications to do well in Major League Soccer.
Kevin Payne broke out the hyperbole
"Tal Ben Haim has been one of the top defenders in the EPL for nearly a decade. He captains his national team and Ryan thinks the world of him. He's exactly the sort of veteran defender we need."
Is he, though? Ben Haim has been moved around every season since 2007 and has not established himself as a valuable asset in any of his teams; the list includes Chelsea, Manchester City, Portsmouth, Sunderland and West Ham United, which gives him plenty of pedigree and experience to draw on, but to call him a top defender may just be a tad exaggerated.
What you do get with Ben Haim is a player with some leadership qualities backed by a forged identity in the back line. That makes Ben Haim a valuable asset to Toronto's young and inexperienced defence, the same defence that has conceded multiple late goals and prevented Toronto FC from rising in the standings.
At 31 years old, Ben Haim isn't going to offer Toronto FC a speedy option down the flanks. Hopefully, what he can offer is some stability and understanding, to help avoid not only the late-game collapses, but to usher in a mentality of confidence and character in a back line that looks low on morale.
Is it a good move? It's tough to say. Toronto already has plenty of central defenders to call upon, including Danny Califf, who has seen more of the bench than one would like, considering he, too, is a player with experience that Toronto FC could draw from. Ben Haim's ability to play either fullback position makes him a bit of a utility player for the club, but with Richard Eckersley returning from injury, too, the back line will be reshuffling.
Nelsen did promise change at the end of the last game. Perhaps this is just the first step.