Marco Reda figured it was a good time to come home to resume his professional soccer career.
He has played in Norway and Denmark for about five years, but Toronto FC, the Major League Soccer expansion franchise, has allowed the native of Woodbridge, Ont., and other Canadian players the chance to play at home.
Once there was speculation that Toronto was in line for an MLS team, Reda said, "We always kept it in mind as players."
Toronto FC became a reality last May and talks began with Reda's agent during the summer. He was signed in October.
Reda, a defender who will turn 30 this year, played with the Toronto Lynx when they were in the A-League from 1998 to 2002 before playing in Norway with Sogndal and in Denmark with Aalborg. He also made his debut with Canada's national team against Northern Ireland in February of 2005.
"If you can make a decent living playing at home, you know, you'd always rather be in front of family and friends and live the life that you're accustomed to," he said here at training camp. "For a lot of guys who go over to Europe, it's a big change culturally, socially. You don't know any people there. I mean, the football is great, the money is nice, but you want to live your life as well, right?
"When I went over, I was 23 years old. For a lot of guys, it's learning the language, meeting new people, maybe they're young and it's the first time living on their own, managing their own money. And when you're playing in Europe, it's really high pressure. There's always someone to take your spot, so a bad game or two and you're out of the lineup."
Toronto FC head coach Mo Johnston said he likes players with leadership qualities and Reda fits that category.
"Marco's a leader," Johnston said yesterday. "He has international experience. He's Canadian and will be playing in front of his home crowd. So far, Marco has yet to see the field a lot because of a couple of injuries."
Reda did participate in yesterday's practices.
Toronto FC has yet to play a game, but the reaction at home has been positive and season tickets are in the 12,000 range, given a boost by David Beckham's decision to join MLS this summer when his contract with Real Madrid expires.
"I'm definitely surprised," Reda said. "I've been involved with professional soccer in Toronto before and it was always a businessman who had some money or someone who wanted to give it a go. Once I heard that it was Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment involved, I figured if they can't make pro soccer go in Toronto, no one can."
He feels that MLSE, which also owns the Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Raptors, gives the franchise credibility. The timing might also be right.
"There's a buzz from the World Cup last summer," he said, "and the world youth championships are in Canada this summer. And the Toronto FC. So I think people are interested. And the new stadium I think adds a bit. It's a downtown stadium."
And now Beckham's signing with the Los Angeles Galaxy with a deal said to be worth $250-million (U.S.) over five years.
"I think it's a great thing," Reda said. "When you look at the numbers, it's a little bit astonishing that someone could get that amount of money. But I think it's great for the game here in North America. I think it's great for the league. I think it puts the league on the global map. Now it's just not covered in North America, every time Beckham plays it's going to be in the English papers and in the bigger papers in Europe."
Former U.S. national team striker Conor Casey should soon officially be with Toronto FC. The holdup is basically a formality with procedures at the league's head office.
"He's our player," Johnston said.
Casey's contract with the German club Mainz has been terminated.
"He's a quality player," Johnston said.