TORONTO — Ask Steven Beitashour about the advantages of playing for Los Angeles FC and the former Toronto FC fullback reels off a shopping list of reasons.
Weather. LAFC's state-of-the-art facilities. Proximity to his family. But coach Bob Bradley looms large on the list.
"The surroundings are pretty nice. You've got a nice little training facility here, nice little stadium, good fan base, beautiful pitch, beautiful weather," Beitashour said in an interview from L.A., breezily downplaying LAFC's pluses.
"So I can't complain. I've been blessed the last few years to be in two good positions."
The 31-year-old from San Jose, who joined LAFC as a free agent in January, returns to Toronto on Saturday when the expansion team makes its first visit to BMO Field. Call it the Bradley Bowl as Toronto captain Michael Bradley faces off against the team coached by his father Bob.
Beitashour, who had offers from six or seven clubs, said Bob Bradley was one of the main reasons he chose LAFC.
"I think the main factor in that was Bob Bradley and what he's done in the past and how much respect he has around the league and around the world. I knew if I'm joining a team that's coached by him, he's got some ambitious thoughts about what he wants to do and the way he wants to play football and it was something that I wanted to be part of. And so far it's been great."
Bradley, he said, is "super detailed-oriented," wants things done right and holds everyone to a high standard.
"He wants every practice to be sharp. He's always trying to get us to improve. It's really great to be a part of. And if you saw from pre-season to now how much every player has improved, you'd know what I'm talking about."
LAFC has not disappointed in its inaugural season. The team sits third in the West with a 12-7-7 record, with some 16 points more than Toronto (7-13-6).
Backed by its fans, the team has compiled an impressive 7-1-5 record at the Banc of California Stadium — a US$350-million facility that was privately funded. LAFC has sold out every home game, averaging 22,055 fans.
While he now plies his trade 3,500 kilometres way from Toronto, Beitashour still gets his Canadian content.
Assistant coach Marc Dos Santos is Canadian, as are defender Dejan Jakovic and midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye (currently recovering from a broken ankle). Fullback Jordan Harvey, a fellow Californian, was a teammate with the Whitecaps.
Los Angeles also was attractive because it's an easy flight from his family in San Jose.
The American-born Beitashour, who plays internationally for Iran through his family bloodlines, says the LAFC and TFC training grounds and stadiums both rank in the top three in the league.
"I've been blessed the past few years being in Toronto where everything is fantastic from how they run their organization to the players and coaching staff. And then going here where, again, it's an expansion team so you don't know what you're getting but they've done everything and more to do things the right way."
Beitashour started his career in San Jose in 2010 before moving to Vancouver in 2014. After two seasons with the Whitecaps, he came east to Toronto.
As with his previous teams, he left in part because he felt he wasn't being offered what he was worth to stay. According to MLS Player Association figures, he is earning $298,375 this year, up from $264,000 with Toronto last season.
He holds no grudges.
"it's just the business. I'm kind of used to it at this point," he said.
Beitashour is used to fighting to make his mark.
A ball boy with San Jose Clash (now Earthquakes) in the first-ever MLS match on April 6, 1996, he was a star soccer player at high school but did not get many offers from big colleges. He went to San Diego State as a walk-on, albeit a recruited one.
He came to the attention of the Earthquakes thanks to his best friend's little brother whose club coach knew San Jose coach Frank Yallop. Beitashour got a call from Yallop, a former Canadian international and coach, inviting him to a tryout that turned into a two-week trial. San Jose eventually drafted him in the second round (30th overall) of the 2010 MLS SuperDraft, two picks after TFC fullback Justin Morrow.
The rest is history.
A car aficionado, Beitashour has managed to avoid getting stuck in Los Angeles traffic in his sporty Lexus RC F by choosing to live near the LAFC training centre.
The surroundings can't be beat.
"You know California weather," he said happily. "It's pretty nice. I'm looking up trying to find a cloud right now and I don't see one. It's pretty decent weather."
Beitashour, who hit the 200-game MLS milestone earlier in the season, has started 22 games this year with two goals and four assists. One of those goals came against San Jose — a score he did not celebrate out of his respect for his former team.
LAFC is looking to complete a Canadian treble, having already won 2-0 in Vancouver and 5-3 in Montreal.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press