PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 01: Carlos Bocanegra defender of US soccer national team looks on during a news conference on June 1, 2010 in Pretoria, South Africa. USA will face England in their 2010 World Cup opener on June 12. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
The headline may have you feeling a bit confused considering that you are not reading on Hot Time in Old Town but instead are on a Toronto FC blog. These rumours are very relevant to Toronto FC now though with the team sitting in the number one spot in the MLS Allocation Order.
For those not familiar with the allocation order it is used when a former MLS player who left the league for a transfer fee returns to the league or when a US National team player signs with the league. The order is based on teams finishing position in the previous season and once you select a player you move to the end of the order. It then resets at the end of each season.
Toronto FC now sits on the top of that order and will want to put that spot to good use before the roster freeze comes into effect in just under a months time. Chances are they will then find themselves on the top of the list again for next season as they continue to languish near the bottom of the league.
So now to get back to the headline and the actual point of the article. It seems that those rumours of Carlos Bocanegra coming back to MLS just won't go away. Ever since things went bottoms up at Glasgow Rangers the player has been linked with a move to a number of different clubs including teams in England and France. A return home to play in MLS may just be enough to tempt Boca to pass on those offers though and at 33 years old he would be a welcome addition to any MLS side.Last time Bocanegra was in the MLS was in 2004 when he was playing for the Chicago Fire. Now it seems that he is on his way to the windy city to possibly seal a return to the club that gave his club career its start. The report in question can be found here and though I am by no means saying Boca to the Fire is a done deal it does help to make a crucial point. Any report that is coming from a facebook page should obviously be taken with a grain of salt but if there is any truth to it there would be a number of interesting implications from a TFC perspective.
If Toronto FC has decided that they are going to trade the top spot in the allocation order it better mean that they have exhausted all options in their pursuit of the American CB or any other top player that they might be able to use the top spot to land. If they have done that and know that there is no way they would be able to take advantage of the top spot before the roster freeze renders it useless then making a deal with another club would be a wise move.
It is quite possible that Boca has turned down TFC already as he is likely looking to return home to play and that does not mean going to Canada despite likely interest from both Toronto and the Vancouver Whitecaps at different times this season. If he only wants to go to an American team that is likely something we will never know for sure because the club is not known for being up front with their fans.
The sad thing is that if Bocanegra ends up at any other MLS club he could be another in the growing line of high end CB's that fans will feel the club has missed out on this season. With the team having reportedly taken strong runs at signing Alessandro Nesta and Olof Mellberg but missing out on both, the confidence in the front office is at an all time low so missing out on Boca would only make things worse.
That leaves the club with two options. The first is to go out and pour their energy in to trying to track down another player that would suit their needs and could be acquired through the allocation order but that is not easy as there are only so many American internationals and former MLS players out their who would be available on a free transfer. The second option is to go out and get the best trade value for the spot possible. If the team were to swap spots in the allocation order with Chicago and only receive some unknown amount of allocation money, draft picks, or international roster slots it would certainly not go over well.
Many fans will basically look at any such deal as Toronto trading the rights to Carlos Bocanegra to the Fire and would expect to get value for that in return rather than just getting value for the spot in the allocation order. What would be good value for that trade though? Would it actually be reasonable for anyone to expect that Toronto would receive a star player in return for a player who could well go right back to being the top defender in the entire league as he was before he left in 2004. Could Toronto get a player like Dominic Oduro in return or another MLS contributor like they did in the past?
Last time these two team were involved in a similar deal it was when Brian McBride returned to MLS. He wanted to end up playing for his home town Fire but with Toronto FC holding the top spot in the allocation order the Fire were forced to pay up to sign the American striker. The Reds got Chad Barrett, a first round SuperDraft pick and some of those undisclosed considerations. Obviously Chad Barrett is no McBride but it was fairly good value for a deal when Toronto had their hands tied by the player not actually wanting to sign for them.
We could see a repeat with Bocanegra if he is indeed set to return to MLS but if the front office does not get at least as valuable a return as they did with McBride they may well see even more backlash. Fans are already losing faith in the club and it is starting to show in attendance so the club would be wise to be up front about any possible deal and assure fans that they really are trying to do something right and are not just missing out on yet another top defensive option.