Drew Moor leaving Colorado comfort zone pays off with on-the-rise Toronto
Drew Moor knew right away that from a soccer perspective, inking a free-agent deal with Toronto FC in December 2015 was the right decision. He's even more aware of his good fortune now, as TFC prepares to host the Seattle Sounders in Saturday's MLS Cup final.
But that didn't make it any less difficult for Moor to pick up and move from Denver, where he'd spent the previous seven seasons and helped the Colorado Rapids to the title in 2010, to a new country.
"My wife was five months pregnant and we struggled with moving to Toronto at first," Moor told ESPN FC in a phone interview on Monday. "The club did everything to help us and I know in terms of Americans moving to other countries, Canada is pretty easy. But we liked living in Denver.
"For most of January and February, I was gone for preseason in California and Florida while my wife was back in very, very cold Toronto, trying to find a place for us to move into. It was a challenge at first. It was an eye-opener just how big and busy and crowded and crazy this city could be."
Almost a year later and Texas native Moor is about to experience Toronto at its nuttiest. The Reds have turned the city -- now the fourth-largest in North America by some estimates -- on its ear during these playoffs. Saturday night's tilt promises to surpass the off-the-charts atmosphere of last week's Eastern Conference final second leg against the Montreal Impact, which the hosts won 5-2 after extra-time. It will be a far cry from the last MLS Cup played in Toronto: a dismal neutral-site affair between the Rapids and FC Dallas played out before many empty seats.
"That one was very special for me and the Colorado Rapids, getting that club its first MLS Cup and mine as well," Moor said. "But it definitely wasn't the spectacle that Saturday night could be."
This, of course, is why Moor traveled to Toronto in the first place. As one of the first players in Major League Soccer history eligible for free agency provided by the league's new collective bargaining agreement, he was intrigued by the idea of joining a TFC team on the rise. Meanwhile, Reds coach Greg Vanney and GM Tim Bezbatchenko knew that acquiring proven MLS talent would help push his historically underachieving team toward respectability and, hopefully, a championship.
Vanney, who played alongside Moor in Dallas during Moor's first two seasons in the league, pulled out all the stops to lure the six-foot central defender north of the border.
"Going into the offseason we knew we needed a center back who could lead, a consistent performer through the course of the year, a guy that we could rely on," said Vanney on Monday during a conference call with reporters.
"He's a very good person first and foremost. Second, he's a guy that has enough experience that he can play outside of himself and help the people around him and communicate and play externally while still doing his job at a very competent level on a consistent basis.
"He's been to a championship game and won. It made it simple for us that he was a target," Vanney added. "And through free agency, it was an opportunity for us to sell ourselves as a club and what we have here and what we're doing and what we're trying to achieve. Drew signed on and we couldn't have been happier on that day, and we're even happier now."
Moor helped TFC go from a league-high 58 goals conceded in 2015 to just 39 this year, while also passing his vast experience on to young Toronto defenders Nick Hagglund and Eriq Zavaleta. His upbeat and outgoing personality instantly made him one of the most popular and well-respected players in the Reds' locker room.
"He came in the first day and found the perfect way of establishing himself within the group," said TFC captain Michael Bradley to ESPN. "He knows when to say something. He leads by example. He leads by being a good person. He's a guy we count very heavily on. His calming presence, his play and his way of leading were exactly what we needed."
He's settled in off the field, too. The Moors' first child, Joey, was born in Toronto in May. TFC's playoff run has further strengthened the family's ties to the community.
"We're so glad we took the leap and went through those challenges because it made us appreciate the club and the city so much more, especially now," Moor said. "We couldn't be happier to be here."
Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @DougMacESPN.