The right side of defence was a major problem area for Toronto FC during the 2015 Major League Soccer season.
Complicating matters was the fact Mark Bloom, the club’s starting right defender in 2014, missed the entire campaign due to a series of injuries. Toronto never found a suitable replacement for him, using a number of different players in the position, including left fullback Justin Morrow for long stretches of the campaign.
In total, the Reds conceded 58 goals during the regular season, tied for the worst defensive record in the league. Small wonder, then, that Toronto made a move to shore up its back line on Friday by acquiring right fullback Steven Beitashour in a trade with the Vancouver Whitecaps. In return, Vancouver gets a second round pick in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft from Toronto as part of the deal.
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“The right back position is one we struggled to fill at times this past season due to injury and available personnel and Steven more than fills that void. He is one of the top right backs in MLS,” general manager Tim Bezbatchenko said in a news release. “Steven brings valuable league and international experience to our defensive group. We are very happy that he wanted to come to Toronto FC and that we were able to finalize this deal.”
Beitashour, 28, should be able to help bolster TFC’s meagre defence. The American-born Iranian international is a veteran of six MLS seasons, and he started 27 times for a Vancouver team that conceded just 36 goals in 2015, tied for the best defensive mark in MLS.
“Toronto FC is a club that definitely caused teams around MLS to take notice last season and I’m looking forward to the chance to help take the club to the next level,” Beitashour said.
Why would the Whitecaps let such a valuable asset leave for so little in return? It comes down to money.
Beitashour earned $197,000 last season, and was set to earn roughly $220,000 in 2016. Vancouver declined its option on Beitashour’s contract for next season, but under MLS rules the ‘Caps still retained his rights. Vancouver was negotiating with Beitashour, trying to sign him a to a new deal for less money.
Clearly, Toronto was willing to pay Beitashour what the Whitecaps weren’t, as TFC have to pick up the right fullback on his current contract terms.
What does Beitashour’s arrival in Toronto mean for Bloom?
Beitashour will obviously be installed as the club’s starting right fullback, which means Bloom will fall down the depth chart. It’s a big blow for Bloom, who has been working out on his own in Florida. He promised to be fully fit by the start of pre-season training in January and was hoping to win his starting job back.
“I see myself in that starting role. I hope [management] does, too. I understand that we need another right back, and if they go out and get one that won’t hurt my feelings. We need depth. You want two options there like we have on the left with Justin [Morrow] and [Ashtone] Morgan. But I hope I’m that first option, and going into pre-season it’s my goal to prove to them that I am the first option,” Bloom told Sportsnet earlier this month.
“I think things could have been a lot different had I been healthy and been the starter [this past year]. But I got hurt and I couldn’t prove that I was the better option.”
A second-round pick (30th overall) in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft, Beitashour began his career with the San Jose Earthquakes, his hometown club. He was a key member of the San Jose side that finished first place overall in 2012, starting in all 33 regular season games. The Earthquakes traded him to the Whitecaps prior to the 2014 MLS season.
“Steven is arguably the best right back in the league,” Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson said at the time of the trade.
Beitashour made his debut for Iran in a friendly against Thailand in 2013. He was named to Iran’s squad for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil but he was an unused substitute in all three matches.