Darren O'Dea is leaving Toronto FC and it looks like his destination will be Metalurh Donetsk in the Ukraine. The Irish Sun are reporting that he will join the club on a three-year deal. There is no indication that Toronto will be receiving any sort of transfer fee from the deal but it seems unlikely as the move has salary dump written all over it.
Metalurh Donetsk are an interesting club as they were only formed 17 years ago but have already become one of the top clubs in the domestic league despite only having a 5000 seat stadium. They have finished high enough in the league to qualify for European competition on seven occasions now including their 5th place finish last season which is enough to get them into the third round of Europa League qualifying later this summer. The club will be hoping to finally make the break through and win their qualifying match to reach the group stage for the first time.
The problem is that their stadium is not up to the standards needed for playing in European competitions so they end up playing at the much larger Donbass Arena which is home of their neighbours and rivals Shaktar Donetsk. That arrangement won't last much longer though as the club are in the process of building stadium that will seat 17,500 and provide them with a venue more suitable to a club with their European aspirations.
So O'Dea gets to leave bottom feeders Toronto FC and head to a team that is good enough to take part in European competition. He also gets to join a group of defenders that includes two former Ukrainian internationals (Vyacheslav Checher and Denys Holaydo) and two current ones (Volodymyr Polyovyi and Mykola Morozyuk). There is plenty of quality in the group which should be good for O'Dea who will probably find being surrounded by quality quite refreshing after his time at TFC.
The story comes with an interesting personal side for O'Dea though as he turned down more money to move to Ukraine when he chose to sign for Toronto FC. At that time he reportedly had an offer from Tavriya Simferopol as he felt Toronto would be a better place to bring his wife and young daughter. The reasons he turned down a move to Tavriya would also apply to life in Donetsk so it is an interesting move.
The Sun report does suggest that Toronto FC did at least make an offer to O'Dea and his agent before letting him leave. The article quotes his agent as saying, "There was a situation with Toronto where his contract would have to be renewed. He was the highest-paid defender in the league but the new proposal wasn't acceptable." That makes it sound like TFC did make an effort to sign him to a new deal at a much lower cap-hit but with O'Dea knowing there was bigger money waiting for him in other leagues it makes sense that he would turn down a major pay cut.
The problem was that unless O'Dea took a pay cut down to at most 50% of his current salary he did not make sense to keep in Toronto. During his time in MLS he has been an average MLS defender at best so he would have to be paid as one but the club is paying him like he should be winning Best Defender awards every year which is far from the case.
It seems that transferring O'Dea away from Toronto is the best move for both parties. The player gets to keep his career going and joins his new club early in their season rather than having to look for a club in the winter. The club gets a big piece of cap relief, an international roster slot, and now have the summer window to reinvest that money.
Darren O'Dea will probably be remembered as a good guy and an okay player but that was never going to be enough because of that insane contract that the club signed him to. It just goes to show that once again TFC's management teams made a move without understanding how MLS really works as if they knew what was going on they would not have committed so much cap space to any single player.
With O'Dea set to finalize his move away it will hopefully open the door for new players to come in. After last night's 1-0 defeat against 10-men Chivas USA the reinforcements cannot come soon enough as fan morale is edging dangerously close to the levels of the end of last season if it isn't already there.