In what was probably the worst-kept secret, or at least the most-expected news, of the offseason, Toronto FC and former France international Benoit Cheyrou have reached an agreement on a new two-year deal, with the second year a team option.
Cheyrou, TFC management and head coach Greg Vanney were all on record about their desire to have the player back in a Reds uniform for 2017, but despite joining the team for preseason, there was still some unease amongst fans until this news broke today.
Cheyrou has been with the Reds for two seasons and has quickly become a fan favourite, cementing his BMO Field legacy with that famous goal in the Eastern Conference final against the Montreal Impact.
While not a 90-minute player at this point of his career - or even an every-game contributor - Cheyrou nonetheless adds value and depth to a midfield that had already lost Will Johnson and Daniel Lovitz this offseason.
I have been a fan of Cheyrou since the day he was signed, as he also represents something else to me: insurance for Michael Bradley. Whether it is international duty with the USMNT or injuries, you can expect the captain to miss six to eight games a season for the Reds, and usually in the middle of the campaign. Having Cheyrou take the armband and patrol the midfield to an adequate level is key in the team’s ability to not miss a beat in Bradley’s absence. This was never more evident than in last year’s Canadian Championship, when Cheyrou and 10 guys a decade younger than him managed to make a surprise run to TFC’s fifth Voyageurs Cup.
The great benefit of having Cheyrou on the bench is his all-around class. Whether it is on the pitch or in the locker room and on the training ground, Cheyrou has been everywhere and seen it all. He just exudes a sense of calmness and stability that is beneficial when you have so many young players on the roster.
The stability part is key. One of the reasons MLS teams rarely exhibit sustained success over multiple seasons, is the huge flux in roster makeups. By and large, TFC can now return to action for next season with their DPs, young players and veterans - bar Johnson - all returning to make another push at the Supporters Shield and MLS Cup.
The most successful franchises always have a long-term succession plan, and with Cheyrou on board, Vanney has bought two more years with which to develop and groom Jonathan Osorio, Armando Cooper, Jay Chapman and Tsubasa Endoh into responsible two-way midfielders, while Bradley and Cheyrou lead by example.
Bienvenue à nouveau Benoit, les fans de Toronto sont heureux de vous avoir!