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TFC Top 30 Countdown #9: Luke Moore

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Up next, at number nine, in the annual countdown of Toronto FC's ever-revolving cast of players is forward Luke Moore - no doubt a valuable attacking addition to the side

Luke Moore, and the ball, find their way into the Montreal net
Luke Moore, and the ball, find their way into the Montreal net
Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

Acquired quietly midway through the season – May 8 official - in a three-way trade with Chivas and the Colorado that saw Marvin Chavez to Los Ameri-Goats and Gale Agbossoumonde to the Rapids, Moore proved himself to a useful, if at time frustrating, addition.

No doubt a talented forward coming up through the English system, he never reached his prospected heights before trying his hand in MLS following a short stint in Turkey, but immediately brought a measure of calm to an all-too-often disjointed Toronto attack. What he lacked in sheer effort was more than made up for with a certain reliability; he produced, but was never really embraced – no surprise given how much this city praises perspiration.

He first saw action nine days after the trade, replacing Gilberto in the 56th minute against New York, with TFC nursing a one-goal lead. 39 minutes later he would secure that victory with a stoppage-time clincher to seal the result.

Moore would make it two-from-two the following week with a deft finish against Kansas City, drawing TFC back into the match just minutes after Steven Caldwell was dismissed for a high boot that caught Toni Dovale in the midsection, reducing Toronto to ten-men. The Reds would go on to tie that match deep in stoppage-time, their first result in KC in recent memory, Sporting Park being rather unkind to them since it opened.

That would be enough for him to displace a struggling Gilberto from the starting eleven, forming a comfortable partnership with fellow Englishman Jermain Defoe over the coming weeks as Toronto rode a seven-game unbeaten run through the World Cup break.

Having failed to notch a single point in six appearances with Chivas through the early portion of the season, Moore would find his footing in a more comfortably Brit-friendly situation in Toronto, racking up six goals and four assists in 22 starts and 27 appearances with TFC. Hardly earth-shattering numbers, but good production from a top four forward – a position he looks set to continue in 2015.

The Birmingham-native would add further goals against DC, Montreal, and his former employers, Chivas, notching crucial assists in draws against Houston and Chicago, but his most noteworthy performance came on August 9 against the Columbus Crew, as TFC swept the season series for the first time against their Trillium Cup rivals, winning 2-3 in Columbus with Moore in on all three with a goal and two assists.

He helped give Toronto the lead by picking out Gilberto in space in the Crew box, allowing the Brazilian a neat low finish. Then, his effort to draw a tight-angled save out of Columbus keeper Steve Clark, having put himself in a great attacking position, allowed Jonathan Osorio to bundle the second over the line. Finally, he nabbed the winner in the 84th minute, three minutes after TFC had relinquished the lead, rising up well to meet a Collen Warner corner kick, powering his header home:

Lovely.

In many ways, it was a performance emblematic of Moore's season. He was a non-factor in the run of play, but chose his spots to devastating effect – an asset that, if he can exploit with more regularity next season, will make him a very valuable part of the team.

There is a cool-calmness about his game. It's not about energy, but smarts; to be in the right place at the right time and make things happen accordingly – his goals against DC (pouncing on a loose rebound from Bill Hamid), Montreal (arriving at the back-side to tuck in a deflected shot), New York (cleverly winning a long ball away from Luis Robles and a defender to walk in a goal), and Chivas (finding space in the middle of the box for a tidy finish), speak to that ability.

But perhaps the best example of that hovering in-action followed by advantageous effort came against Kansas City, floating deep in a defensive posture, only to spring into action with the midfield turnover, surging into the box, keeping himself onside, and tucking in a bent shot to sting Sporting:


Of course, the flip-side of that coin is that too often he appears to not be a factor in the game; drifting in and out with a nonchalance that verges on disinterest.

It's really very interesting to watch him play. He's a bit of a dichotomy; a study in the division between the prevailing drive for all-out effort in the English game with a mix of that reserved continental predatory aspect that can make a striker truly dangerous – perhaps one of the reasons he never really found himself in the old country; he doesn't quite fit either the mode of a hold-up target striker or an underneath play-maker, but possesses the under-appreciated skills to do a bit of both.

He showed real hustle and quality from the wide position to set up Dominic Oduro in Houston, winning the ball, beating his man to the end-line, then basically banking the ball in off of the speedy Ghanaian, who redirected the ball with his thigh:


And did very well to corral a bouncing ball and spring Gilberto against Chicago with a perfectly weighted pass:


Taking a little revenge for the controversial red card that saw him dismissed in the first meeting between the clubs last season.

Arguments over whether he produced enough this season, given the amount of playing time he saw, must be tempered with the consideration that this was a transition year for him. Crossing the ocean to move to MLS from a career spent mostly in England, stumbling through a few months at a dysfunctional Chivas before being traded to TFC; those sorts of cultural shocks can disrupt a player's contributions. With a year to acclimate, to the weather, the league, and his environs,  under his belt, it could be expected that next season will see even more from the forward.

It would be a reasonable surmise to assume that Moore's acquisition was largely pursued by former head coach, Ryan Nelsen; a student of the English game – the impetus for player moves, as in whether Nelsen, Tim Bezbatchenko, or Tim Leiweke was the driving force, was murky at best, with claims and faults rotating freely.

That said, even under the new regime come the end of the season, Moore was a regular starter, and has shown himself to be multifaceted, functioning as more of a play-maker behind, or at least a foil alongside, either Gilberto or Defoe at times, linking well with each.

And with his stated cap hit, according to the player's union at least, coming in at just shy of $130 000, he can be considered extremely affordable in terms of cost-to-production ratio for a member of the striking battery.

Moore, as one of the sixteen players who saw their contract options exercised back at the start of December, will be an important piece to the 2015 side. Whether he struggles or becomes the next Bradley Wright-Phillips or Giles Barnes, English imports who really found their feet in MLS, remains to be seen, but after a quietly impressive season, prospects looks good.