On Friday afternoon, Toronto FC's roster for the 2014 season took the first step towards taking shape. The club announced that they exercised options on 12 players while declining options on 4 players and confirming that 3 more players are out of contract. The result of all the moves is that the roster now stands at 21 players total.
The current roster is as follows:
That means that unless they agree to new contracts, we will have seen the last of Stefan Frei, Justin Braun, Danny Koevermans, Bobby Convey, Darel Russell, Michael Thomas, and Robert Earnshaw. There is a chance that some of those players could be brought back should they agree to a new deal with the club. For the likes of Convey or Earnshaw they could be worth bringing back if they are willing to settle for a slightly reduced rate of pay while for others like Frei and Koevermans it is pretty clear that we have seen the last of them playing for Toronto.
The club decided to pick up the options on goalkeepers Joe Bendik, Chris Konopka, Quillan Roberts; defenders Gale Agbossoumonde, Mark Bloom, Ryan Richter; midfielders Kyle Bekker, Reggie Lambe, Jeremy Hall; forwards Bright Dike, Emery Welshman, and Andrew Wiedeman for the 2014 season. It seems like a large number of players to be on option years but in MLS the majority of contracts are built with a number of club options so that teams have flexibility each offseason.
Now that Toronto has 21 players under contract for the 2014 season there is a much more clear picture of what they have to work with. The club has 9 available rosters slots including two Designated Player slots but more importantly they should have a large amount of cap space to work with as they are shedding a number of large contracts.
According to the most recent salary figures from the MLS Player's Union the seven players that TFC no longer have under contract, with the exception of Thomas, were each bringing in over 100k a year. With the combined cap hit for the group being over $1 million. When combined with the moves that TFC made in the summer that should give them a lot of space to work with and allow them to not only sign two designated players but also add some experienced MLS players.
Of the seven players that Toronto FC no longer have under contract, the majority were not key contributors in 2013. Frei and Koevermans spent much of the year injured or riding the bench, Thomas was brought in to serve as depth and basically did not play, Braun saw inconsistent minutes throughout the season and seemed to be surplus to the team's needs following the arrival of Dike, and though Russell did make 18 appearances he seemed to fall behind Laba and Hall on the depth chart when they were healthy.
That leaves Earnshaw and Convey who were regular contributors in 2013. Earnshaw led the team in scoring and was the closest thing the club had to a consistent threat but his place in the squad is under question with the club reportedly closing in on signing Jermaine Defoe and Alberto Gilardino. If the club can get him back at a reduced rate he would provide scoring depth which is something that they will need. Convey was a solid presence on the wing and he brings a wealth of experience but his 2013 salary was higher than his performances merited. If he is open to taking a pay cut he could very well be back next season.
Of the 21 players now left on the roster the only one who seems likely to be headed for the exit is Eckersley as it has been made fairly clear that he has played his last game for TFC. The club will have a few options with how to deal with getting him off the books including buying out the remainder of his contract, transferring him, or trading him to another MLS club.
With several other MLS clubs already announcing their roster moves, the field of players that will be available in the re-entry draft is starting to take shape. That draft with be the club's first real chance to start adding pieces to the roster and adding to the core that they now have in place.
Looking at the 21 remaining players there are clearly some areas that the club will need to upgrade beyond just finding proven goal scorers. The most glaring holes are on the wings where the depth at winger and the quality at fullback are both questionable.
For now though, it is good to get our first glimpse at what the 2014 version of Toronto FC will look like.