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The WTR Top 20, No. 8: Drew Moor can anchor TFC’s defence, but for how long?

The veteran centre back has been a stalwart the past two years.

MLS: Eastern Conference Semifinal-Toronto FC at New York Red Bulls Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

It is difficult to believe that Drew Moor has only been with Toronto FC for two seasons. It feels like he’s been patrolling the back line much longer. But 2016 was, indeed, the first time that the 13-year MLS veteran donned Toronto red. During that season, we hoped for the best. We really did not know what we were getting.

2017 was a different story. Right from the outset we had very firm expectations of ‘Drew Muir’ (as Steven Caldwell would say it). We expected him to be the glue that held TFC’s defence together. Then, a health scare helped put things in perspective.

Last year, of course, Moor dealt with a serious medical condition that affected his heart. He required a three-and-a-half-hour surgical procedure to correct the problem. It could have been a career-ending condition, especially given the strain that a footballer’s cardiovascular system must endure.

But Moor showed tremendous strength and resiliency. He only missed seven games over a one-month span, and seemed to pick up right where he left off. By season’s end, Moor amassed 25 appearances, and 2,176 minutes. He led the team in clearances per game (4.2) and blocks per game (0.8). He was third on the team (highest defender) with an 86.7% pass completion rating and was second on the team (again, highest defender) with 1.7 interceptions per match.

As good as Moor’s regular season was, he actually saved some of his best performances for the playoffs. During the postseason, Moor defended very well against strong opposition. Particularly impressive was the job that he did to stifle Bradley Wright-Phillips during the infamous tunnel game at BMO Field. Moor used every part of his body to thwart the Englishman’s attempts to score, on a super-slick field no less.

Drew was also a beast in the air for a player barely six feet tall, with a surprising 17 aerials won during Toronto’s five playoff games. To put that into perspective, Chris Mavinga claimed 10 air victories over that same timeframe.

MLS: Toronto FC at New England Revolution Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Moor’s detractors will be quick to point out three major mistakes that could have cost Toronto the MLS Cup. The most memorable was the one chance that he allowed to Wright-Phillips — the one that produced the “leg of God” save by Alex Bono. But, in fairness, calling that a “mistake” is a bit harsh. Tyler Adams’ one-touch pass to set that play up was perfect. It had to be. Sometimes, the opposition is just that good and, in this particular instance, that was the case.

The other two gaffs, however, were definitely avoidable. The first was the miscommunication between Moor and Marky Delgado that led to Daniel Royer’s penalty kick in the first leg of the Red Bulls series. The second was Moor’s terrible giveaway to Harrison Afful in the Eastern Conference final against the Columbus Crew. Again, Bono was there to bail out his central defender.

On the other hand, Moor’s cheerleaders will be quick to point to the penalty that he won against Josh Williams during the second leg of the Eastern Conference final. Those same cheerleaders will also point to Moor’s block on Ola Kamara, when the Norwegian had an open net during the first match in Columbus. Then there was Drew’s inspired play during the final against Seattle, including his header that almost gave TFC the lead in the second minute.

In short, with Moor, just like with many defenders of his caliber, there are numerous plays that highlight his frailties as well as many plays that illustrate his abilities. The key is to objectively assess which side of the ledger is greater. There should be no doubt that Moor’s body of work tips the scales in his favour.

MLS: MLS CUP-Seattle Sounders vs Toronto FC Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

But, how long will Moor’s body continue to work? Heart condition aside, Drew is currently the oldest member of the team. At 34 years of age, that doesn’t mean that he’s ready to be put out to pasture. However, it does mean that succession planning is quite important over the next couple of seasons.

The club knows this and, for this reason, they signed Moor to a simple one year deal, with an option (at their discretion) for 2019. Moor also knows this, and he chose to sign because he wants to stay in Toronto, for both personal and professional reasons. Both of his sons were born here, and he has enjoyed his greatest MLS triumphs at BMO Field (even when he was with Colorado).

By his own words, and actions, Moor is committed to the team’s success. Unquestionably, that success will continue to rely on his ability to marshal the rearguard. His legacy, however, will be determined by the knowledge that he imparts to those destined to carry the torch.