Lost in the excitement of Toronto FC's win over rival Vancouver Whitecaps is that fact that the club made a move to release Nick Soolsma. The Dutch winger had his contract terminated by mutual consent and will leave the club with immediate effect.
It was not that long ago that Soolsma was proving to be one of the better signings that Aron Winter made early in his time at the club but it all seemed to go so wrong in recent weeks. It started with a hamstring injury that held him out of the lineup for a period of time and saw him slip behind Reggie Lambe on the depth chart and probably hit the point of no return when Soolsma was one of three TFC players arrested as a result of public intoxication down in Houston.
The final nail in the coffin certainly came when Paul Mariner replaced Winter as the club's head coach. There was always reports of the squad being made up of players who Mariner brought in and preferred and others were brought in by Winter. It was no secret which side of that divide the Dutch Soolsma was on and so it should not be a surprise that Mariner did not include him in his plans for the team.
Letting Soolsma go opens up some cap space, he was on $110,000 this season, and will also free up another international slot. The club will not get all the cap space back this season as his release is after the July 1st deadline for avoiding the cap hit but in the long run it will give Mariner more flexibility to build the squad his way.
In the short term it will not change very much as Soolsma was only being used as a substitute in Mariner's 4-4-2 formation. He was clearly second choice to Lambe, Eric Avila, and even Luis Silva. The other move of the day was that Toronto finally wrapped up Joao Plata's six month loan deal to LDU Quito.While with TFC Soolsma made 32 league appearances. He chipped in with 3 goals and 7 assists during those matches making him one of the better players that was brought in at the start of the season. He was brought in as a trialist before the 2011 season when newly appointed head coach Aron Winter was scrambling to build his squad in time for the season. He managed to impress in preseason and was one of three dutch players that the club signed at the start of the 2011 season. He was signed on March 9th along with Elbekay Bouchiba and Javier Martina and certainly outlasted the other two at the club.
Soolsma will likely be remembered as a reliable winger. He was not the flashiest player and was not one to really light up the wings by burning by his marker. He was capable of putting in a good cross and running with his head up though. That meant that he could often make up for his lack of pace by creating just a little bit of space for himself and picking out a good cross or pass.
Plata was a complete contrast to Soolsma in that he was all about using his pace to beat his man down the wing and came with a lot of flash. The trade off with that was he lacked the consistency you would like to see from a regular starter and even though he sometimes stole the show he often left you frustrated looking for more from him. Plata may yet return to TFC after his six month loan ends but it would probably be wise to not hold your breath on that one.
Now Toronto is two wingers lighter and finds themselves sitting on a pair of international roster slots. They are now without two players that were fairly popular among fans and will be facing pressure to make some big moves to improve the roster. That is probably how this two moves are going to have to be judged in the long run. The club moved out a pair of fairly expensive internationals so now they have some flexibility to make much needed improvements elsewhere in the side. If they can do that it would really soften the blow of losing Plata and Soolsma but if all they do is bring in more average players and overpay fans will certainly continue to lose even more faith in the club's ownership group and management.