Free agent Beitashour leaves TFC to sign with LAFC

Toronto FC's Steven Beitashour. (Michael Dwyer/AP)

TORONTO – Free agent defender Steven Beitashour has left Toronto FC to sign with expansion club Los Angeles FC, Sportsnet can confirm.

The L.A. Times’ Kevin Baxter reported late Wednesday night that Beitashour was close to a deal with LAFC, who are coached by Bob Bradley, father of TFC captain Michael Bradley. Sportsnet has since learned that it’s a done deal, and that the Beitashour has signed with LA.

Beitashour, 30, entered free agency at the end of a 2017 MLS season that saw the Reds cap off a record-setting year by winning its first MLS Cup.

According to the MLS players’ union website, Beitashour earned $264,000 US last season. TFC made Beitashour a contract offer, but he turned it down as it would have meant taking a pay cut.

TFC went to great lengths to keep Beitashour, but the club’s salary cap situation made it difficult to re-sign him, especially with players getting a bump in pay from their championship bonuses. Ideally, the Reds would have spent Targeted Allocation Money to pay down his salary cap hit, but under league rules they aren’t allowed to do so on a player in Beitashour’s salary range.

One of the most popular and likeable guys on the team, Beitashour joined TFC prior to the 2015 season via a trade with the Vancouver Whitecaps, and he quickly established himself as one of Toronto’s most consistent performers. He played in 56 regular season games during his time in Toronto, and started all 11 of TFC’s playoff matches as the Reds made back-to-back appearances in the MLS Cup final.

There was also some hardship along the way last season, as he collided with Montreal Impact defender Kyle Fisher in the Canadian Championship final on June 27, and underwent surgery on his pancreas. After close to two months on the sidelines, Beitashour made his return in August.

Who will replace Beitashour on the right side of the midfield in coach Greg Vanney’s 3-5-2 formation for the upcoming season? One option is Lichtenstein international Nico Hasler, who joined the team last summer after Beitashour went down injured, and looked impressive during the Reds’ second half of the season and playoff run. TFC could also spend the new pot of TAM money that all MLS clubs have been given on a replacement for Beitashour.

Beitashour’s departure means Toronto has now lost two players this off-season. Canadian wingback Raheem Edwards was picked by LAFC in last month’s expansion draft and then traded to Montreal. Also, veteran midfielder Benoit Cheyrou retired.