Toronto FC is on the hunt for a fresh young DP! With Kevin Payne confirming that the club has sent Pat Onstad down to Argentina on a scouting trip to watch a young forward that the club is interested in the time for speculation has begun!
Before speculating it is worth getting familiar with the young designated player rule according to the 2013 MLS Roster Rules and Regulations:
A Designated Player 20 years old or younger** counts as $150,000 against the club's salary budget and a Designated Player 21-23 years old counts as $200,000 against the club's salary budget.
** Age of player is determined by year (not date) of birth.
That means that any player under the age of 23 could be counted as a young DP towards the cap but once they turn 23 years old they would bump up to the full cap hit of a designated player which is now set at $368,750 for 2013. The rule is still in its infancy for the league which means very few teams have taken advantage of it thus far.
The two examples currently in the league are Fabian Castillo with FC Dallas who is now 20 years old and the 20 year old Rafael who is on loan with D.C. United for 2013. The later is a good example of what Toronto FC would be looking to do which is not a surprise since that deal was already in the works during Kevin Payne's time in DC so it has his finger prints all over it.
Toronto will be looking to bring in a player on a loan deal for the season if they do make use of the young DP option. They now have two DP slots to work with and a fairly large chunk of cap space so they could bring in a young DP and still have the option of making a big signing in the summer should the club feel the need to do so.
We know that TFC are looking at a player who is currently in Argentina, we know the player is a forward, and we know he will certainly be under the age of 23. Chances are that the player will be closer to that 20 year old range though as it would allow the club to keep him around as a young DP for a longer period of time should things work out during the loan period.
The similarities in this plan to Rafael in DC are quite notable. DC brought him in on loan from Bahia in Brazil's top professional league, he is a 20 year old, and he plays forward. Toronto may be looking at a player in a different country but the rest of the formula is basically the same.
Rafael scored 10 goals in 36 appearances in the league for Bahia which is a good return for a 20 year old in what is a very competitive league. It remains to be seen what kind of contribution he will make in DC but he is certainly one to keep an eye on as the young DP program takes shape.
Kevin Payne was reportedly one of the people who played a big role in the addition of a lower cap hit for younger DPs so it should come as no surprise that he would also want to be one of the first to take full advantage of the chance first with DC and now with Toronto FC.
So who could the club be looking at? Well, there really are a whole lot of forwards playing in Argentina that would fit the description so one could spend all day searching for potential names but there are a few that would be really nice additions for TFC even if they are a bit hopeful. With the search narrowed down to the 20 teams in the Argentine Primera Division here are a few names that jumped out to me:
Leandro Diaz: plays for the same club that sent Diego Valeri to the Portland Timbers and the 20 year old forward is not really getting much playing time at CA Lanus since returning from loan in 2012. Has 4 goals in 31 appearances for the club since 2010
Rogelio Funes Mori: the 21 year old forward from River Plate comes with an MLS connection having spent time in FC Dallas' academy back in 2008 and is now a regular for River Plate with 20 goals in 78 league appearances. He also has a cap for the Argentine National team.
Martín Benítez: at only 18 years old he is already making a name for himself with Independiente but has not found that much playing time in the past two seasons. He does have two goals in his five first team appearances for the club and was a key part of Argentina's U17 team at the World Cup in 2011.
Facundo Ferreyra: reaching a fair bit with this one as the 21 year old forward is already a key player for Vélez Sársfield where he scored 13 goals in 16 games after joining the club in 2012. He also has a strong showing at a U20 World Cup on his resume.
Luciano Vietto: 19 year old forward for Racing Club de Avellaneda is another top prospect in Argentina have done well with the U20 squad and already making his way into his club's first team. He has 7 goals in his first 20 league games for Racing.
Lucas Melano: Another 19 year old who is currently a member of Argentina's U20 team and already doing well with his club. Melano plays at Belgrano and has 4 goals in 29 appearances to his name already.
Ezequiel Rescaldani: A second option from the Velez roster the 20 year old is a big (6 foot 3) center forward who went out on loan in 2012 so could be an option to do the same in 2013. He has 20 appearances for his club scoring just 2 goals but he did net 3 goals in 7 games when he was on loan with Quilmes.
Those seven names are some of the biggest ones that would fit the description but even a quick glance at the squads of teams in the Primera Division shows that there are a whole lot of young forwards that Toronto FC could be looking at. It would be great to see TFC bring in one of the players above but they are the cream of the crop which might not make them realistic options.
It will be interesting to follow this story as it develops and hopefully we are able to narrow down the possible targets for you but for now it is safe to say that there are a whole lot of players that Pat Onstad could be looking at and that is just the ones currently in the top flight.