Prior to kicking off a 70 minute exhibition match between Toronto FC reserves and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish the club's official twitter account provided fans with an update on their pursuit of a player from Argentina. The announcement came from Kevin Payne himself saying that the club could have a new signing in the coming days and that Fran O'Leary and Pat Onstad are both in Argentina right now.
There is still no word from the club about who the player in question is but as reported last week many are speculating it will be Maximiliano Urruti of Newell's Old Boys. (You can find our full run down of what the 22 year old attacker would bring to Toronto should the club manage to sign him in this post.) It is likely that he would come in at the level of a young DP meaning it would be a fairly big money signing even though he would most likely come in on a loan initially.
The issue with all of this is that if Onstad and O'Leary do return from Argentina with Urruti they will also need to come back with an international slot to allow him to be added to the roster. As things currently stand Toronto FC has 28 players on the roster leaving them with only 2 slots to work with should they want to sign additional players. The issue is with international slots which are currently all used up.
Toronto's current crop of internationals is made up of Robert Earnshaw, Richard Eckersley, Hogan Ephraim, Reggie Lambe, Taylor Morgan, Darren O'Dea, Darel Russell, John Bostock, and the injured Danny Koevermans. That is a total of nine internationals on the books for a club that only has eight international slots.
When Koevermans makes his return from injury the club will be forced to either acquire an additional slot or clear up one of their existing ones by releasing a player. That might not be much of an issue considering that Ephraim, Bostock, and Earnshaw were all brought in on a short term basis and would need to be extended prior to the time that Koevermans is expected to return from injury.
Adding an Argentine in Urruti would mean having to find a spare international slot in the coming days and that becomes a bit more tricky. With 152 international slots spread around the league's 19 clubs there are plenty to go around should TFC want to try and acquire an additional one. At last count there at 26 slots that are currently not being used (some due to players on DL or out on loan) which means clubs will have have them available should TFC be able to meet the asking price.
The normal price of an international slot is not that high as they are often swapped for bit part players, draft picks, or some allocation money. Toronto should have all three of those to work with right now so making a deal might be a good option. A potential partner could be found in Columbus Crew, Philadelphia Union, Seattle Sounders, or Sporting Kansas City who all have 3 or more slots open at present.
If Toronto is unable to pick up an international slot through trade the other option would be to clear up one of their existing slots. If you assume that the players the club signed in the past two weeks are not going to be released pretty much straight away it leaves only a few possible options.
The first option would be that of Reginald Thompson-Lambe (or Reggie Lambe) who will have to fight for minutes in the attack with all the recent additions and has yet to consistently impress since joining TFC prior to last season. The Bermudan international was clearly one of Mariner's guys and could be the odd man out now that Payne and Nelsen are calling the shots.
Lambe would be an affordable option to get rid of even if he is on a guaranteed contract and there is depth at his position now making him expendable. The same could not be said for O'Dea or Eckersley as both defenders remain key players for the club and it would really not make sense to clear either of them out even if they take up a large chunk of cap space.
So if you don't want to trade for a slot or dump Lambe the only option left would be to get rid of one of the recent signings. Would the additions of Earnshaw and Urruti along with Justin Braun coming back from injury be enough to make Taylor Morgan expendable after hardly seeing any playing time? Is Darel Russell's versatility off the bench enough to make him worth an international slot on a team where they are at a premium?
It is clear that Toronto has a few options and chances are they already have a plan in place considering the fact that the club seems hopeful that O'Leary and Onstad will return with their player in the coming days. If you were in Kevin Payne's shoes what would you be doing to make space for the possible arrival of Maximiliano Urruti?
Update (3/12/13, 2:10): Club tells Neil Davidson that they do have a 9th slot and are currently using 8.
@prizby club says they have 9 and are currently using 8.— Neil Davidson (@NeilMDavidson) March 12, 2013