Toronto has a fan in Benoit Cheyrou.
The decorated central midfielder is back for his second year with Toronto FC. Cheyrou and his family enjoyed living in Toronto, so much so that they spent much of the offseason in the big smoke before returning to France for the holidays.
“It’s so different from one season to another and that’s what I like about Toronto,” said Cheyrou following Wednesday’s morning training session in Irvine, CA.
“This winter hasn’t been too bad, compared to last year. There’s a lot of things to do inside the city. You can drive your car for one hour and you can be in a totally different landscape. It’s really, really fun and really nice.”
Cheyrou was a stabilizing force in a midfield that endured plenty of changes in 2015. He started 29 games last year, and registered one goal and seven assists while completing just over 50 passes per game. The additions made to the squad, including Will Johnson, Steven Beitashour, Drew Moor and Clint Irwin, during the offseason have the former Marseille star looking forward to the new campaign.
“More maturity has been added,” said Cheyrou. “They can bring us a lot from their experiences in the league. They’ve played many games in MLS so their maturity is welcome in this team."
Cheyrou’s goals haven’t changed since last year, when he came to Toronto to help the club progress to the playoffs. They’ve done that, but there is a bigger hill to climb in 2016.
“I said it last year when I came, I’ve come to help the club to improve and to be more competitive, said the 34-year-old. “We have a really good project in Toronto to make this a big club. That’s what we’re trying to do everyday. Of course we improved last year by qualifying for the playoffs but we expect more this year. We cannot expect less and we’re here to do better."
Few players can offer more salient advice to the younger charges on the club than Cheyrou, who has a resume that speaks for itself. He sees promise in the kids brought along with the first team to Southern California.
“They like to work and they like to listen the pieces of advice we can give them. It’s a real pleasure to work with them and to play with them because they want to improve everyday and every minute. It’s fun.”
WIth the opportunity to learn from a player of Cheyrou’s caliber, the feeling is mutual.