There is no doubt that 2013 was another eventful year in the world of Toronto FC. There were a lot of big story-lines to follow throughout the year and some of them were even good. With the year coming to a close we look back on the top 10 stories of the 2013 year.
1. Kevin Payne takes charge: Payne was technically hired in November 2012 but his impact on the team was primarily felt in 2013 when he finally got down to work on shaping the team into the squad he wanted. His short time with the club was marked by players on bad contracts leaving and lengthy pursuits of a number of players who never did wind up at BMO Field (Hondurans or Forlan for example). If Toronto FC do find success in the coming seasons it will be in part due to the work that Payne did for the club in 2013 as he left the squad in far better shape than it was when he took over. He may not have been the right man for the job of rebuilding the roster which is why he was shown the door but he certainly did a good job of trimming the fat.
2. Ryan Nelsen appointed head coach: In January it came out that Ryan Nelsen would be the next coach of Toronto FC. He was unveiled by Kevin Payne but one major question mark remained. At the time that Nelsen was named head coach he was in the middle of a Premier League campaign with Queens Park Rangers. It took a few weeks to figure out when Nelsen would take charge of the club but eventually he retired from playing and was in Toronto in time to lead the team through most of preseason. His first season in charge at TFC was not exactly a resounding success but he seems to have done enough to merit a second year in charge to see if he can continue to develop along with the team.
3. Torsten Frings retires: with TFC looking to clear up a designated player slot it seemed that Frings was sitting on the hot seat. He was struggling to come back from injuries and did seem to be running out of gas but when he suddenly retired in February it raised more than a few eyebrows among observers as to whether or not it was his choice. In the end it seems to have worked out well for both parties as TFC opened up more cap space and a DP slot to work with in their rebuild while Frings was able to begin his transition into a coaching role and is now working with Werder Bremen's U-23 team.
4. Here come the loans: the bulk of Toronto's roster was built off of loans early in the season. The likes of John Bostock, Hogan Ephraim, Robert Earnshaw, and Steven Caldwell all first arrived at Toronto FC under some sort of loan agreement. It was the easiest way for Ryan Nelsen to bring in new players as it just meant working his connections in England from his playing days. The loanees who impressed got to stick around while those who struggled could be cast off with little cost of the club. For a team in dire need of a boast early in the season it seemed like a wise way to go.
5. Argentine DPs: In the spring it became clear that Toronto FC had their eyes on a pair of young DPs from Argentina. The first, Matias Laba, arrived in the spring and proved to be one of the club's top players in 2013. His transfer seemed to go quite smoothly as his former club, Argentinos Juniors, were in need of the funds and were willing to sell the player. The Laba signing was probably the best move that Payne made during his time at the club. The second Argentine DP, Maxi Urruti, was the exact opposite for Payne though as it left him looking rather foolish. The club publicly pursued the forward since the spring and it took until August before they actually managed to complete the transfer. While Laba found success in Toronto all that Urruti found was the exit as he was left behind in Portland shortly after he joined the club.
6. Forlan: the lengthy pursuit was not the only high profile case of Payne going after a player and struggling to complete the deal. During the summer months the club were strongly linked to Uruguayan international Diego Forlan with it sounding like a done deal at times but in the end he never did arrive at BMO Field. The public nature of the club's interest in the player did not look good when the move did not happen. It was one of the bigger black marks on Payne as he seemed unable to deliver the big name player that his new boss was clamouring for.
7. Tim Leiweke takes over MLSE: one of the biggest showmen in North American sports arrived in Toronto promising to turn around MLSE's franchises. He spent time working on the Maple Leafs and the Raptors before turning his attention to Toronto FC. Sure he has continued to offer a lot of big talk since taking charge and has been very focused on the signing of a household name as a DP but he also seems to have things heading in a better direction. His biggest moves to date have been the change at GM and the decision to keep Nelsen on as head coach. It is still too soon to judge either of those though.
8. Tim Bezbatchenko replaces Payne: If Kevin Payne was well known to fans all around MLS then his replacement was basically unknown to everyone. Tim Bezbatchenko came over to Toronto FC from MLS HQ without much of a resume but seeming to have a clear plan about what the club needed. His knowledge of the salary cap and MLS rules should give him a leg up on many who have gone before him at TFC but the big question mark is that he has never built a team before. He is off to a good start though with his early moves this offseason which should be winning fans over who had concerns about his resume coming in.
9. Gilberto joins as DP: the Brazilian forward may not be the big splash that TFC have been talking about for months now but he is certainly an interesting addition to the team. At 24 years old he still has some room for improvement and he is coming off a very good season in Brazil. He is by no means a guaranteed success as his last year may have been a one off but with TFC's scoring woes in 2013 his addition is a good start towards addressing those concerns. Getting it done in January made the move all the more impressive.
10. Defoe and the hunt for a big name: this is a story that will continue into 2014 when it will hopefully be resolved with the arrival of that big name DP. It looks like it will likely be Jermain Defoe that ends up in Toronto but the team also had links to Alberto Gilardino, Samuel Eto'o, Georgios Samaras, Didier Drogba, and a number of other players. It has certainly been an exciting pursuit to follow for TFC fans who are eager to see who could be the club's newest DP. It will all be another sad chapter for the club though if they do not manage to secure one of their targets but thankfully they seem close to getting the Defoe deal done.
This top 10 is certainly not all of the biggest stories of the 2013 year and there is plenty of others that could have made the cut. What are your biggest stories of 2013 that did not make our list?