We’re a few weeks into the Major League Soccer regular season, and Daniel Lovitz’s head is still spinning. Really, you can hardly blame him.
Shortly after last December’s MLS Cup final, Toronto FC declined its contract option on Lovitz. Suddenly out of work, he went on trial with Vancouver during the off-season, but things didn’t pan out with the Whitecaps. Then he was invited to Montreal’s pre-season training camp in Florida and ended up signing with the Impact just days before the start of the MLS campaign.
Thus far Lovitz, a 25-year-old native of Pennsylvania, has made two appearances, both as a substitute, through the Impact’s first three matches. He is also very much still adjusting to life in Montreal after a whirlwind of an off-season.
“I returned from the trial with Vancouver with the intention of joining them in Portland for their pre-season tournament. That didn’t come to fruition, so I was scrambling a little bit and my agent alerted me there might be an opportunity with Montreal to meet them in Tampa,” Lovitz recalled in a one-on-one chat with Sportsnet.
“I jumped at it. I knew the team well; being in Toronto, I was pretty familiar with the Impact. I threw myself into it right away. I saw right away it was a good group, a good culture to be a part of and I fit in. It took off running after that. I was humbled for the opportunity.”
During the courting process, Montreal coach Mauro Biello told Lovitz he planned to use him as a left fullback, a role he only occasionally filled with the Reds.
“He was very straight-forward with me, which I appreciated. He said he wanted me to play as a left back. He knew I didn’t have a ton of game experience at Toronto with that, but he valued my profile as a player,” Lovitz said. “It’s been a great process to fit in, but now it’s time to put my stamp down, to try get some more minutes.”
Playing time was an issue for Lovitz during his tenure in Toronto. Selected 24th overall in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft, the Elon University product made 18 league appearances (five as a starter) during his rookie year and played in only 23 games over the course of the next two seasons.
A change in tactics by coach Greg Vanney, from a diamond-shaped 4-4-2 formation to a 3-5-3 setup, combined with injury problems limited Lovitz’s opportunities.
“Danny had been with us for a few years. For him, we had tried him in multiple positions. When he was originally drafted, he was a winger or an outside midfielder. We switched from a diamond, and really didn’t have a position for him,” Vanney told Sportsnet. “We started to look at him as an outside fullback. [But] he also had some off-and-on injury issues [and] didn’t get a lot of reps as an outside back.”
With Justin Morrow firmly established as the starting left fullback, TFC decided it could keep either Lovitz or Canadian Ashtone Morgan, but not both, for the 2017 MLS season. They chose Morgan.
“It came down to Danny and Ash… [and] our choice was to keep Ash, and allow Danny the opportunity to find a place where he can go and play,” Vanney explained. “For him to continue to progress in his career he needs to play, and he wasn’t going to play regularly with us. It was one of those mutual decisions.”
Lovitz also described it as “a very mutual, very easy parting of the ways.”
“It never feels great to be released, but they knew what was best for me and it wasn’t there, and I agreed with them. They showed a lot of maturity and professionalism in the way they handled the situation, and I applaud them for that and I’m very grateful for that,” Lovitz stated.
Despite his departure, Lovitz has fond memories of the TFC organization and his time in Toronto.
“I’m indebted to them for the start to my career and last three years. It was an amazing experience to be a part of that club…. I didn’t find a way to stay in [Vanney’s] plans, to be one of the guys they wanted to keep around. I thought I had done that but it was clear from their perspective that I hadn’t. But I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for Toronto FC.”