While Robbie Keane was being revealed as the new captain of LA Galaxy, it slipped under the radar that international team-mate Darren O’Dea also took hold of the armband over the border in Canada. Following a draw with Keane’s champions LA Galaxy last weekend, O’Dea looks determined to lead Toronto to better things this season.
Only an injury-time equaliser from Jose Villareal prevented Toronto from inflicting a shock-defeat on the MLS Cup holders at BMO field last Saturday. A succession of late goals saw the Reds finish bottom of the pile in the Eastern Conference last year but with new coach, former QPR player Ryan Nelson, in charge, hopes are high for a change of fortune this campaign. Toronto were just minutes away from recording their second home win of the season.
New captain Darren O’Dea knows all about that feeling having returned from World Cup duty with Ireland. Austria’s last gasp equaliser prevented the Republic from taking second place in Group C and the road to Rio just got bumpier for the Boys in Green.
O’Dea looks to have lost his place in the Irish pecking order to Aston Villa’s Ciaran Clark but the Dubliner is held in high esteem by manager Giovanni Trapattoni, trusted to come into the side in important qualifiers on the way to Euro 2012 qualification.
O’Dea was partnered with John O’Shea at the heart of the defence last October when Germany inflicted a 6-1 defeat which prompted the Irish manager to overhaul his playing squad. Things are better on the club front for the 26-year-old as O’Dea, who made his name at Celtic, has assumed a leadership role at Toronto.
“Whether I have an armband on or not, I don’t think I’d change. I’m naturally loud, I like to speak and organize. It’s obviously a fantastic honour to be captain of any club, and especially a club like this. But, I’ll not play any differently or act any differently. There are plenty of leaders in our dressing room now, and that’s important because it’s not going to be down to one person. I’m young. I still need to learn, and it’s fantastic I have people like the manager here now,” he told the Toronto Star last month.
In six years, Toronto have never made the play-offs. So far this seasion, they’ve scored five goals and conceded six in four games. At the same point last year, they had suffered four losses and conceded nine. Manager Nelson is still experimenting with his defence but he’s put his faith in the Irish international.
“Some people think a manager needs to yell to keep control of a dressing room. He doesn’t. He’s got his own way but certainly everyone’s really really adapted to him well and adapted to his ideas. And we’re trying to get better at them. We know we’re not even close to being where we want to be but certainly the strides forward have been fantastic so far,” O’Dea told CP24 this week.
O’Dea was signed in August last year and was thrown in at the deep end playing nine games before a thigh injury put him out of action. After a pre-season with Motherwell in Scotland, O’Dea has assumed the captain’s role under the new manager and is relishing his first full season in American soccer.
“I came from a club at Celtic where you’re constantly talking about history. Here the club is so young, it hasn’t achieved anything yet. Hopefully you’re going to be the first to do it.”