TORONTO - On many occasions during his first half-season with Toronto FC last year, captain Steven Caldwell was often the only seasoned veteran on the pitch as he looked to shepherd a very young squad to competitive performances.
But after Toronto FC used the offseason to add players with significant experience to their midfield and forward ranks in the form of Dwayne De Rosario, Michael Bradley and Jermain Defoe, the 33-year-old Caldwell is thrilled to have several new teammates who can bring veteran savvy to TFC’s starting lineup.
“It changes things a great deal,” the central defender told MLSsoccer.com. “I think it is very exciting for us to have more experience. Obviously the quality of the players the club has signed is something that is pleasing to me and everyone else in the organization. It is very exciting times. Now we have to do the hard work to prepare for the first game on the 15th of March.”
While clearly happy to have other players who can share the veteran leader tag with him on TFC’s roster, the Scotland international was also plain in stating that he is even more buoyed by the technical and athletic quality that players like De Rosario, Bradley and Defoe will bring to the team’s performances.
“We are going to gain by the quality of the new guys, first and foremost,” Caldwell explained. “Michael will bring such quality in midfield. He is a superb football player. Jermaine has shown his quality at such a high level and De Rosario has that quality that he can change a game in a second.
“First is the quality they bring, but second is their experience, as they have played at such high levels for many different clubs,” Caldwell added. “That’s going to be a big difference for us and it will be a big help to a lot of the younger lads.”
While Toronto’s first week of preseason is affording him the opportunity to get a first-hand look at what Bradley will bring to Toronto’s midfield, Caldwell admitted that his familiarity with Defoe meant that he already had a good idea what the England International will bring to the Reds immediately upon the news that he had signed with TFC.
“I’ve played against Jermaine a good few times, probably four or five times,” Caldwell said. “So I know firsthand the quality that he has. I’m very confident that he will be a prolific goalscorer in the MLS. It is a tough league, but if you have the quality and attitude to work hard, then you can be successful. I’m certain Jermaine will be one of those new guys.”
With the addition of so much marquee talent over the last couple of months, Toronto have immediately gone from a team that few people had high expectations for to one that have now been anointed an MLS Superclub and a genuine contender by many.
In Caldwell’s estimation, he and his teammates now have to use the pressure that comes with those sorts of tags as motivation.
“I think first and foremost that people have to understand that the pressure is there and to actually enjoy the pressure and realize that it can be positive for players and teams as well,” Caldwell said. “It is great to be playing on a team that is expected to win and we certainly have the quality to do that.
“It is going to be difficult both at home and on the road with the expectations, but it is case of working extremely hard and gelling as a team and staying with the common goal and the style that we want to play. I’m sure once we get accustomed to each other, the results will come.”