ATLANTA — Veteran Toronto FC defender Drew Moor plans to keep playing next year. He’s just not sure for whom, although his preference is clear.
"I would love for it to be here (in Toronto), but we haven’t started contract talks yet," said the 35-year-old centre back whose contract expires at the end of the year.
"I plan on playing. If it’s here, that would be great. If it’s not, I would be very disappointed to leave that’s for sure," he added.
Moor said the choice to delay contact talks was his, explaining he wanted to "stay focused here, right now in this moment."
"I know Toronto also has a lot of things to sort out and again being a free agent is a little bit different (in terms) of where I can go, who can sign me, how much they can sign me for and stuff like that."
Moor and Toronto FC faced off against defending champion Atlanta United FC in the MLS Eastern Conference final Wednesday night.
Injuries and the July arrival of former MLS defender of the year Omar Gonzalez have cut into Moor’s playing time. Chris Mavinga and Gonzalez have become coach Greg Vanney’s preferred pairing, with Belgian international Laurent Ciman, Moor and Eriq Zavaleta waiting in the wings.
After playing 32 and 25 regular-season games for Toronto in 2016 and ’17, Moor appeared in eight and 13 matches in 2018 and ’19. He has seen 153 minutes of playing time — one start and three substitute appearances — in the last 20 regular-season and playoff games this season.
But Moor, who is making US$375,000 this year (10th highest on the team payroll), remains an influential member of the Toronto squad.
"He’s fantastic," said Vanney, who played alongside a rookie Moor back in 2005 at FC Dallas.
Vanney, who was in his 10th year as a pro at the time, says Moor plays the game "between his ears."
For Vanney, Moor and others not seeing regular action this season have played an invaluable role in preparing the starting 11 in recent weeks.
"The guys have really come out and had great mentality, worked really hard," he said. "They’ve created a lot of problems which helps us to problem-solve some of the things that we might see going into the weekend and really wort though some of the details.
"And Drew is the leader of that. Eriq, another centre back, has been fantastic. As have plenty of other guys, who have really good — Alex (Bono), Jay Chapman, Pat (Mullins). They’ve done a great job of pushing everybody so that they’re ready when they’re called upon but also so that the group as a whole is ready come game-time."
The reduced role has not been easy for Moor, a 15-year MLS veteran who had played in 406 regular-season and playoff games prior to Wednesday.
"I still think, especially when I am healthy, that I can be a more relied-upon day-in, day-out-type guy," said Moor, whose resume includes five caps with the U.S. national team. "Maybe not three games in a week, maybe not eight games in a month. But yeah, it’s tested me a lot not being able to play every game, being out of the (matchday) 18 even when healthy. But it’s part of the job.
"I want to continue to play and continue to help this team both on and off the field. The best way I can do that is staying mentally and physically prepared and acting like every single day when I come in here, I’m a starter and I’m the go-to guy even if that means I’m frustrated when the roster comes out and I’m not on it. I still have to be a good example and I try to be. It’s not always easy, because for 14 seasons basically I was that guy that could be relied upon and I still feel I can but I’m not right now. And that’s OK. We’ve got a championship to win and you’ve have to sweep stuff like that aside sometimes."
The Dallas native signed with a Toronto from Colorado as a free agent in December 2015. Then-GM Tim Bezbatchenko also brought in goalkeeper Clint Irwin, fullback Steven Beitashour and Canadian midfielder Will Johnson during that off-season.
But it was Moor whom Bezbatchenko called "a key piece in the puzzle."
Then-Colorado president Tim Hinchey called Moor "a great player, great captain and great ambassador."
The four additions helped stabilize a Toronto defence that had given up league-worst 58 goals during the 2015 regular season, cutting that number to 39 in 2016 as Toronto made it to the MLS Cup.
Moor, who started his career in Dallas after back-to-back NCAA titles with Indiana in 2003 and ’04, anchored the Toronto defence. While no Usain Bolt, he is a smart reader of the game and makes everyone better around him in his role as quarterback of the backline. At the other end of the field, he is a threat in the air on set pieces.
Off the field, he comes with a smile, a great attitude and a ton of experience. And like captain Michael Bradley, he has made Toronto home.
He, wife Shelby and their two sons — aged three and two, both born in Canada — live year-round in Toronto other than off-season visits to relatives in Texas and New Jersey.
"So we’re a little nomads in the off-season but this is home base for us … Texas will always be home to my heart, for sure," he said.
Colorado, where he met Shelby, also holds a place in Moor’s heart. He won the MLS Cup with the Rapids in 2010, defeating FC Dallas 2-1 after extra time at BMO Field.