The 31-year-old Liverpool native joined TFC as a defender, but his work in the midfield versus New York was a key component as Toronto prevailed 2-0 over the Red Bulls.
TORONTO — When the lineups were announced an hour prior to kick off between Toronto FC and the New York Red Bulls on Saturday, a few names stood out.
Along with rookie Nick Hagglund getting the start in central defense, perhaps the most surprising inclusion was Bradley Orr as a defensive midfielder. The 31-year-old Englishman was brought in to Toronto primarily as a defender, given that he can play almost anywhere along the back line.
But when Ryan Nelsen slotted him in alongside Kyle Bekker in TFC's midfield, some eyebrows were raised.
"With Bradley, it was a risk," Nelsen told reporters after the match, a 2-0 victory for TFC. "He's played there before but many moons ago. ... This is why we signed him, you can put him anywhere on the field and he'll do a role for you. A very good role."
Orr certainly made himself known from the outset, setting up shop in front of Toronto's back four and disrupting New York's play down the middle of the park. In the 12th minute, he stepped up and stripped Red Bulls midfielder Dax McCarty of the ball, hitting full stride before finding striker Jermain Defoe with a well-weighted pass for the opening goal of the game.
That moment of brilliance from Orr put Toronto on the front foot for the rest of the half, and it's something that Nelsen and TFC captain Steven Caldwell were expecting from the player.
"He's played three different positions already and today he was abssolutely outstanding," said Caldwell of Orr. "He just digs in and gives his absolute heart every game. He was superb the way he set up Jermain for the first and did an overall great job for us."
Despite earning plaudits from both the manager and his teammates, Orr preferred to give credit to his fellow TFC players, especially the two biggest names on the roster.
"I certainly didn't want to let anybody down," Orr said of his mindset after finding out that he'd be starting in central midfield in place of American designated player Michael Bradley, who has joined the U.S. national team in its pre-World Cup training camp.
"With Michael Bradley not being available it was pretty big shoes to fill, and I don't think anyone here could fill those shoes, but you've just got to do your best and try and do your part of the team," he said.
Orr also singled out Defoe's instincts as the main catalyst for the game's first goal, rather than his own industrious play.
"The credit goes to Jermain because he makes your mind up, his movement's that good," Orr explained. "As soon as the interception was made you see him turn and dart into the space that was the most dangerous, and it was just fortunate for us that he's world class in the box finishing-wise."
Whether he plays in the middle of the park again or returns to the back line, Orr said he'll just be happy getting on to the pitch for TFC in the future. As a versatile veteran, he knows that his role is important, albeit not very glamourous.
"The older I'm getting, the main thing is to be as good as I can be for the team," Orr said. "Everyone wants to play, so who am I to choose where I should play and where I shouldn't? I'm just there to do a job."