On January 13, Michael Bradley and Jermain Defoe took up the microphone beside a grinning Tim Leiweke and answered questions about how optimistic they were for an expensive rebuild that looked set to take Toronto FC to the playoffs, and beyond. Today they were absent as their teammates trotted out in front of the microphone to explain what went wrong. Many had to answer questions about them, or on their behalf, especially when it came to Defoe.
At one point this even made Gilberto remark "the person that should respond to questions about Defoe is him, and the person who should respond to questions about me is me."
Almost every player was subject to a question about their relationship with Defoe, some even got graced with questions about Bradley as well, although it was less common considering the circumstances that surround the Englishman. They all responded the way their media training told them to: they love Defoe, and he is a great leader who will be returning next season.
There were a couple of things of note that came out of the press conference, however. Here are the highlights from the closing set of player interviews for the 2014 MLS season.
Mark Bloom hasn’t talked with Tim Bezbatchenko yet, but expects to get a new contract done soon.
One of the revelations from the 2014 season was right back Mark Bloom, who was easily one of Toronto’s best and most consistent performers in his first full MLS season. There will be a lot of calls for players to be replaced after the horrid end to the year, but few if any will have Mark Bloom on that long list.
But in order for Bloom to return next year he is going to have to sign a new contract, one that will undoubtedly pay him for than the $48,825 he made this past season. Bloom is optimistic the deal will be done in a timely manner.
"Hopefully it will be soon, this week, before I go home to Florida," said Bloom of the negotiations. "Like to get that done."
Bradley Orr is likely done with Toronto FC, but still has time to defend Doneil Henry as he awkwardly confronts media about moving on to a new club.
Bradley Orr’s loan with Toronto FC is up, and therefore he will be heading back to Blackburn Rovers for the foreseeable future. He wasn’t interested at all in speculating about whether or not he would ever return to the club, not even saying that he hoped to at some time down the road.
"I haven’t [talked] about it," says Orr of conversations about returning to TFC with Blackburn Rovers. "But I don’t think so. I have a year and a half left on my contract with my team back home. I’ll have to sit down with them and see what’s next."
Probably the biggest storyline going into the day was the opportunity to ask Doneil Henry about revelations that he had been on loan with Toronto FC from an unknown team in Cyprus all year. There was belief that the club he had been dealt to would be revealed, or at least more clarity on the subject.
Turns out that was not really the case as it still seems clear that Henry is being told to disclose as little as possible about his future.
"I will not tell you what club it is," Henry responded as if he had been practicing the mirror in the line all day. "It’s just that right now I don’t feel comfortable talking about that, and eventually you’ll find out."
He put a lot of the onus on himself as to why the news of his transfer had never reached the media, saying he didn’t want it to be a distraction, especially when the team was in such good form. Said that he wasn’t surprised the team didn’t make it public, because that was his decision.
There also appeared to be a real strategy in placing Bradley Orr at the same table as Doneil Henry. Orr was clearly very protective of Henry, and answered at least one of the questions directed at Henry on his behalf.
Gilberto, his prediction of 20 goals, the lack of a number 10, and Jermain Defoe.
When Gilberto was first announced as a player for Toronto FC, he made the bold prediction that he would score 20 goals in his first MLS season. At the time it was seen as a good statement of confidence, even if it was a bit naïve. As the season developed, however, it became more of a joke as the Brazilian failed to get close to that target, or at times the target in general. He finished the season with 7 goals.
"I’m a little bit gutted that I didn’t get to 20, I didn’t even hit 10," explained Gilberto. "However, I’m excited about what is coming… I’m looking forward to next year to hit that goal."
Gilberto also bemoaned the fact that the team didn’t have a true number 10 to set up the strikers this season. He said he was often forced to play the role, and while he feels that he was successful for the most part in it, it is not his true position.
"When I did drop in I was able to provide a lot of assists to Jackson, to Defoe and to Moore," said Gilberto. "It’s not my true positon, when I do get back there it leaves me out of position at the front to do what job is to do, which is score goals."
He also said that the service wasn’t the greatest throughout the year, but later made sure to clarify his statements and say that his teammates did an excellent job throughout this year.
As aforementioned, he also did not seem entirely pleased with the line of questions that involved Jermain Defoe. When he was asked if he was a good teammate, and whether or not he thinks Defoe will leave, he responded: "I don’t think about that."