TORONTO – If not for a loud-talking Englishman, Drew Moor might not be where he is today, on the brink of reaching a very special milestone.
The veteran defender has played in 399 matches (regular season and playoffs combined) since making his MLS debut in 2005 after being selected sixth overall in the NCAA draft out of Indiana University by FC Dallas.
If all goes according to plan, Moor, 35, will reach the 400-game plateau on Friday night when Toronto FC visits the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Moor has achieved a lot during his 15 years as a pro, including winning a pair of MLS Cups, one each with Colorado and TFC, and a Supporters’ Shield. He’s been one of the most reliable defenders in MLS, and played a starring role for the Reds when they dominated the league in reaching back-to-back finals in 2017 and 2018.
It’s been quite the career, but it could never have happened if not for the influence of Kevin Smith, a former player for English club Charlton Athletic, and who coached Moor for eight years as a member of the Solar Soccer Club while growing up in Dallas.
“He gave me that passion for the game, that love, that drive to compete and to want to win every game. He was English, he was loud, he had an amazing accent, and he and my dad were good friends. He opened my eyes to this sport that wasn’t quite as popular in the U.S. as it is now. He helped me get where I am today,” Moor told Sportsnet.
Where Moor finds himself today is on the verge of entering the “400 club,” an exclusive group with only seven other members. Moor admits he knew he was getting close to 400 MLS appearances, but he didn’t know exactly where he stood until informed by Sportsnet.
“It’s awesome. It’s a testament to taking good care of myself, being on teams that believed in me, some good luck, being versatile. It’s a cool milestone. I’ve said it many times, I want to maximize my time while I’m a player. I feel like I have the greatest effect for a team when I’m on the field, but even when I’m not, I try to be positive and be as much help as I possibly can. But playing games is what we’re here for and to hit 400 it’ll be a special milestone for me,” Moor said.
Moor carries himself with a quiet dignity and a smile permanently etched on his face, always making sure to chat with security people, janitors and the kitchen staff at TFC’s training facility. Everyone who passes by him are greeted with a warm “hello,” including journalists who regularly cover the team. You won’t find many athletes that are as polite and down-to-earth as Moor. Success hasn’t changed him one bit. He’s untouched by it all, and is the same kid who grew up in Dallas.
“I have such an amazing family, which is everything to me. I’m very close to my parents and my siblings, and that hasn’t just changed because of what I do for a living. It hasn’t changed the way they treated me. My wife is not impressed at all that I’m a pro athlete, and I love that. When I get in the car after a game, she asks where are we going to eat. It’ nothing about the game. I still have to take out the garbage and do chores around the house. [laughs] It hasn’t change me and wouldn’t have it any other way,” Moor said.
Moor has been a durable workhorse since entering MLS. He played 20 matches in his rookie year, and at least 27 in each of his next four campaigns with Dallas, followed by a stretch of four consecutive seasons where he played 30-plus games for Colorado. There’s been injuries along the way, but he was never sidelined long-term, until last season when a quad tear and a series of calf issues limited him to a career-low eight appearances. Having to sit out for most of the campaign as TFC faltered badly on the field was one of the toughest things he’s endured.
“It was frustrating last year. With the team struggling that way it was, you just felt helpless. The quad tear meant I was going to be out three to four months, but just as I was ready to come back from that, I felt my calf go, and I was out another month or so. I came back and played a little bit but then my other calf went. I had never experienced that combination of injuries and the poor form of the team, so 2018 will be a year I won’t look back fondly on. It was disappointing, but with this being my 15th season in MLS, I’m pretty lucky to have only one year like that,” Moor offered.
Moor and his wife have firmly embraced Toronto since he signed with the Reds, which includes raising their two sons who were born in the city. But it all could have been much different had Moor accepted one of the many other offers that came his way when he became a free agent after the 2015 MLS season.
“It was similar to college recruiting in that my agent got calls from other clubs when I became a free agent. TFC was one, and the Philadelphia Union came in very strong as well. It was really between those two at the end of the day. When I decided to sign with TFC, other clubs entered the picture at the last minute – Orlando, Salt Lake, and Vancouver.
“The Rapids had offered me a new deal, so it was a tough decision. My wife and I loved Colorado. We felt at home there and we still miss it, but [TFC] was the club I wanted to come to. I knew this was a club that wanted to compete for championships, and I have no regrets at all,” Moor said.
As for the future, Moor has no intention of retiring anytime soon – he wants to keep adding games to his impressive overall total.
“I’m hoping [I can play for several] years. I’m hoping seasons. I feel strong right now. Last year was a blip on the radar for me. I don’t expect to be able to play 34 games a season any more, but I’m going to play for as long I possibly can. It’s funny, with social media these days and with some of my younger teammates, I get asked is retirement coming for me. Of course, it’s coming for everybody,” Moor explained.
“But I still think I have a lot to give as a player. Whether that’s as a day-in and day-out guy for a year or two, or whether it’s as a good locker room guy who can fill in, I’ll play until my legs fall off. I do think every day about there being life after my playing career is over, so I keep that in mind, but my hunger and drive to continue to compete as a player hasn’t gone away. In fact, I feel like it’s stronger as time goes on.”
Whether he’ll continue with TFC beyond this season remains to be seen. Moor is in the final year of his deal with the Reds – the club exercised its option on him last off-season – so he’ll be out of contract at the end of the current MLS campaign. Talks over a possible new contract between Moor and club GM Ali Curtis have yet to take place, but don’t read too much into that.
“Since I’ve arrived, we’ve taken it one year at a time. We don’t start talking to management until right towards the end of the season, and I can’t imagine this year being any different. But I’d love to finish my career here,” Moor affirmed.
Once his playing days do come to an end, Moor wants to stay involved in the sport, but not as a coach, which is a post-career route that a lot of ex-players take. Instead, Moor wants to work in the TV booth as a commentator.
“I’m very interested in the broadcast and commenting side of things. People say to me I’d make a good coach, but I’m not so sure and more important I don’t know that I would want to. It doesn’t get me excited. So much goes into coaching, and I don’t know that I’m cut out for it, but I would love to go into the booth and talk smack about all the coaches that are trying to do things. When I was injured in Colorado, I did some TV work for the Rapids and I enjoyed it, so it’s something I’d like to consider when I’m done,” Moor said.