D.C. United and Toronto FC both had dramatic makeovers during the offseason.
The two sides — which will square off Saturday afternoon at BMO Field — needed an overhaul, as TFC finished with the third-fewest points in MLS last season while United had the fewest.
But the way each side changed its roster was very different.
It’s been almost a year since Tim Leiweke arrived as president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE), which owns TFC. Leiweke, who was behind David Beckham’s move to the LA Galaxy in 2007, is known as one of the most audacious sports executives in North America.
And so it was little surprise when Leiweke convinced MLSE to shell out major cash this offseason. TFC’s ownership group spent roughly $80 million to $100 million in transfer fees and salaries on American star Michael Bradley, England’s Jermain Defoe, Brazil national team starting goalkeeper Julio Cesar and Brazilian striker Gilberto — among others.
In TFC’s 2014 season opener last weekend, Defoe scored twice in the first 25 minutes, Bradley was all over the field, and Cesar made the team’s lead stand up in a 2-1 win over the Seattle Sounders.
United’s roster overhaul was no less sweeping than Toronto FC’s, just not nearly as expensive.
Rather than throw money at big-name internationals, D.C. United acquired trusted MLS veterans in Bobby Boswell, Jeff Parke, Davy Arnaud, Sean Franklin and Fabian Espindola. The team did make one big-money move, trading for U.S. national team striker Eddie Johnson and giving him a big raise.
While TFC’s new-look roster is off to a flying start, United showed there may be some growing pains when it fell 3-0 at home to the Columbus Crew in the 2014 opener March 8.
It doesn’t get much easier on Saturday, as United travels north to face TFC in front of a soldout BMO Field crowd ready to welcome their new stars to MLS.
The game will take place Saturday at 4:30 p.m.
This article was updated to correct an error.