Benoit Cheyrou’s first season with Toronto FC didn’t end the way the Frenchman had hoped.
The Reds fell in the first round of the playoffs, ending Cheyrou’s maiden North American season earlier than planned.
For the former Marseille star the 2015 season was a major learning experience. Yes, a 34-year-old veteran that’s played in the Champions League is still learning.
“I had a lot of things to discover in this league, a lot things that were different from Europe,” Cheyrou said. “It was nice to discover things, like travelling and new stadiums.”
Cheyrou and his family took to Toronto quickly.
"I think it's a wonderful city with a lot of things to do," he said in August . "People here are very respectful, very nice, and I love this city. I feel good being here in this city and with this club."
Cheyrou, though it was his first year with the Reds, knew of the club’s history.
“The first objective [when I came here] was to qualify for the playoffs,” he said. “We did and I think it was a good thing for the club. I’m proud to be a part of this club.”
The regular season didn’t end on a positive note with the Reds finishing sixth in the Eastern Conference. Losses to Columbus and Montreal ensured the Reds would be on the road for their first playoff game ever, facing the Impact for the second time in five days.
“After 34 regular season games we were where we deserved to be,” said Cheyrou, who started 28 games for the Reds and recorded one goal and seven assists.
“You can beat the big teams or lose to teams worse than you, but after 34 games your place in the standings is the right one.”
The team set high expectations for themselves, with Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore joining the squad, along with Cheyrou, Damien Perquis and others.
“We expected to be higher in the standings and we have to work on that for next season,” Cheyrou continued.
TFC President Bill Manning has stressed continuity and stability heading into 2016, something Cheyrou also believes in.
“You cannot build a team in one season. [From the past TFC teams] we know all of that. It takes time to build a very good team. [Making the playoffs] was a good step, but we need more time. I understand people who had expectations of us to be higher in the standings. It was frustrating for us too and we are disappointed, but we have to build from that.”
Off the field Cheyrou served as a sounding board for the team’s young players. Throughout the season Jonathan Osorio, Jay Chapman and Marky Delgado individually pointed to Cheyrou’s leadership, on and off the field, as major factors in their professional growth.
The Marseille legend is slated to return to Toronto for the 2016 season. Based on contributions in 2015, that’s excellent news.