When Ryan Nelsen left Queens Park Rangers to take a role as head coach of Major League Soccer outfit Toronto FC, he brought with him a handful of players from abroad: John Bostock, Hogan Ephraim, Taylor Morgan and Darel Russell are just some of the new names at Toronto FC this season. This new group of players gives Toronto FC quality options across the pitch. These new faces, mixed with a core group compiled from seasons past, means the club is enjoying a period of positive football at last.
Toronto FC's newest hero is Welsh international Robert Earnshaw. His career includes stints in England and in Israel, and in five games Earnshaw has already netted four goals.
In terms of core players, Darren O'Dea is, by now, a well-established player for Toronto FC. An Irish international, O'Dea is currently playing in his second season in Major League Soccer. He is also captaining Toronto FC, playing alongside Danny Califf in the heart of the defence.
With O'Dea captaining the side and Earnshaw adjusting well to a new style of football, Toronto FC employs two quality leaders on the field. The two have only played a handful of games together in North America, but both clearly see the differences between Major League Soccer and European leagues.
"I think mainly it's more direct in the UK," said Earnshaw. "Here, most of the teams will try to pass the ball, and try to pass the ball from the back too; I think probably that's the biggest thing, but there's a lot of quality here as well, a lot of good, technical players here."
"There's not really a lot [of difference]," added O'Dea. "The main difference is when you go away from home, the climate and weather conditions and things like that. Football wise, there's not really a whole lot of difference. I suppose maybe another difference is, when you're away from home, you don't bring travelling support, so it can be more intimidating."
Life in Canada is distinctly different to life in Europe - the culture in Toronto is hockey-centric, while the chill in the air is a touch colder than the stereotypically soggy British weather. However, for Earnshaw, the main difference between the two cities has nothing to do with sports. When asked what the biggest difference was between living in Europe and living in Canada, Earnshaw's reply put Hogan Ephraim, sitting nearby, into a fit of laughter.
"The women!"said Earnshaw, grinning, before answering seriously. "[Toronto] is a good place, very multicultural. There are a lot of things going on, it makes it an enjoyable city to be in. One thing I've been impressed with is it is very sport crazy. [The fans] really love and support sports. Whether it's a good time or a bad time, everybody takes an interest in it, and everybody supports the different sports, which is a good thing."
As for O'Dea, Toronto offers him something more personal. The differences that caught O'Dea's eye weren't so much the food, the streets or the city's traditions, instead, very simply, the people themselves.
"The people are completely different to what I'm used to," said O'Dea. "They're a lot friendlier and kinder. Lovely people. I have a young family now and I'm delighted to bring them up around Canadian - and Toronto - people."
Would these players recommend Toronto FC - and Major League Soccer - to other footballers in Europe? The duo didn't hesitate to throw their support in MLS' corner at all.
"The standard is a lot higher than people give it credit for," said Earnshaw. "People are starting to realize that, I think. That's why you see us coming over, because we've seen that it's a good league. It just takes a little time for people to notice. I'd definitely recommend it, 100 per cent. It can be tough as well but it's an enjoyable league to play in."
"I'd recommend it highly,"said O'Dea. "The facilities are second to none, and when you get to live in places like Toronto, it's a fantastic experience."