Mark Bloom was essentially a pawn in Toronto FC’s high-stakes chess game at last month’s Major League Soccer expansion draft.
Left unprotected by Toronto FC, Bloom faced the possibility of being selected by either Minnesota United FC or Atlanta United FC on Dec. 13. But when Atlanta picked TFC goalkeeper Clint Irwin in the fifth round, Bloom’s name was taken off the board (teams could only lose one player) and he appeared to be staying in Toronto.
As it turned out, TFC reacquired Irwin in a trade with Atlanta later in the day in exchange for Bloom and allocation money. TFC only had so many players it could protect ahead of the draft, and Irwin, like Bloom, simply lost out due to a numbers game. But the Reds didn’t want to lose Irwin, regarded as one of the best goalkeepers in MLS, so they worked out a deal to get him back, sending the expendable Bloom to Atlanta.
Bloom, though, wasn’t put off by how things played out at the expansion draft. In fact, he has nothing but positive things to say about Toronto FC, a club he felt gave him the opportunity to prove himself in MLS after years of toiling in North America’s lower leagues.
“It was a dream come true. There will never be any hard feelings [against Toronto FC] because they took a chance on me, and it’s where I was able to prove I was an MLS-calibre player and a starter in MLS,” Bloom told Sportsnet.
“Even through the final three years when I struggled with injuries and playing time, I have nothing bad to say about TFC. I’m not bitter at all. I’m thankful for the time I had in Toronto.”
Bloom, 29, joined TFC on loan in the summer of 2013 from the Atlanta Silverbacks of the third-tier USL. He helped to bolster TFC’s defence, and earned a full-time contract. The following year, he firmly established himself as a starter and one of the club’s most reliable defenders. But a series of injuries over the course of the 2015 and 2016 campaigns derailed his progress, and he lost his job as the club’s starting right fullback when the club acquired Steven Beitashour prior to last season.
Through it all, Bloom took it in stride. He never lost his cool, never spoke out of turn, and never complained. He simply got on with it, and fully understood why the Reds brought in Beitashour.
“You never want to lose your starting job. Injuries are part of it, and when you have a player who gets injured you have to replace them, and they went out and got the guy that they wanted. But that’s not exclusive to me; so many really good players in MLS lose their spot this way, so there’s no way that I can control the situation,” Bloom said.
“There were days when I was frustrated and I let it get the better of me, of course, but ultimately that doesn’t help or do anything to improve the situation. In fact, it makes it worse. If you can keep a good attitude and work hard, at least you have no regrets, and I had none. If I gave up and started complaining that the world isn’t fair, then suddenly I’m a miserable person to be around, and I never want to be that guy.”
Bloom listened to the expansion draft streamed live on the league’s website from his home in Toronto. After it was done, he took a nap, but awoke an hour later when his phone blew up with texts from friends asking him if he’d been traded. One of the messages was from Toronto general manager Tim Bezbatchenko.
“I called him back and he confirmed the news. It was a very cordial conversation, he was very kind, very complimentary of me,” Bloom said.
Bloom also traded messages with Irwin, before eventually talking with the goalkeeper over the phone, and the two reminisced about their time together both in Toronto and with the USL’s Charlotte Eagles earlier in their careers.
“Clint said, ‘I don’t know how you feel about it, but I’m sorry it had to be you in order for me to get back.’ That was nice of him to say. We have a lot of history together in Charlotte. We both made it to MLS and played on the same team, and that was kind of a miracle in itself coming from the USL,” Bloom offered.
Atlanta United FC is a homecoming of sorts for Bloom—he is a native of Georgia, and previously played with the Silverbacks in the USL. His parents, and brother still live in Georgia, so this move will make things much easier on his family life. But Bloom asserts that he was very happy in Toronto, and would have been more than happy to stay with the Reds.
“I know a lot of people think I was angling for a move to Atlanta, but that wasn’t the case at all. It was a shock to me that I was in the conversation for them. Obviously, Atlanta is an easier situation for my family, but I didn’t want to leave Toronto,” Bloom explained.
“I thought it was a good place for my career, so I didn’t want to jeopardize that just to make it easier on my family life. We would make it work wherever I was going to be. … All in all, I think it worked out for my career and my family, which is a very big blessing for me. I’m pretty excited.”
Bloom remains close friends with a number of TFC players—defender Nick Hagglund and his wife are godparents to Bloom’s youngest daughter Pippa. And just to give you an idea of how nice of a guy he is, Bloom visited TFC’s practice facility the day after being traded to touch base with the team’s trainers, front office personnel, the cafeteria staff, and security guards.
“I’ve been there for four years and all of these people became my family, so I had to say a proper goodbye to all of the people who made my time in Toronto so special,” Bloom said.
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