As Toronto FC continues to shock MLS, its fans and well, its fans by actually signing players that have quality and name recognition, the roof blew off TFC's offseason today with not just the announcement that Jermaine Defoe will be announced on Monday (DeRo tomorrow) but that the team was in talks to sign USMNT and AS Roma player, midfielder Michael Bradley. Seriously. We are not making this up.
As twitter blew up after tweets by Taylor Twellman and Alexi Lalas seemed to confirm that it was more than just rumour, that a deal was indeed in the works; everyone (OK, the majority of my TL) went into paroxysms of joy at the thought of the US international patrolling the midfield in TFC Red. A follow up story by Cathal Kelly highlights the likely details for both the Bradley and Defoe deals. But he also mentions something else - the thing that I personally fear the most - that in order to bring Bradley on board, Matias Laba will have to be cut loose. And that my friends would be a mistake.
There is no denying the talent of the 'The General' as he's called by AS Roma fans - Bradley's ability as a box to box midfielder is not in dispute. His relative youth, rising star abroad and starring role on the USMNT, (especially during the upcoming World Cup - grumble), makes this one of the highest profile signings that Toronto has made in it's short history.
But what of Matias Laba? The young Argentinian was one of the standouts in last season's sad campaign for Toronto. Of course almost anyone competent could be a standout for that team but Laba's talent was plain to see each time he stepped on the field for Toronto. Showing a maturity and ability far beyond his years (he's only just turned 22!), Laba was instrumental in making TFC actually look good on more than once occasion. Think I'm just playing favourites? Take a look at the piece Dave did back in the summer that shows he stacks up among the best in MLS; and that's after playing half a season's worth of games. Imagine what he'll look like next year? Except now with the advent of Bradley that likely won't happen and again I say, this is wrong.
Why not have them both? Can you picture a midfield with the attacking abilities of Bradley and the defensive/distribution abilities of Laba? I'm literally giddy at the thought of it. Pair that with Defoe up top, not to mention the likes of Justin Morrow, Jackson, Gilberto and DeRo (to be unveiled tomorrow afternoon at 1pm) and hey doesn't this start to look like a pretty damned exciting team? So other than the MLS rule about number of DPs, why is everyone so quick to throw Laba on the scrapheap in favour of Bradley?
Surely in the ever flexible world of MLS contracts and 'rules' they can find a way to restructure Laba's contract - paging capologist little Tim! But even without the money issues, why is Bradley viewed as that much better than Laba? Because he's started a few games for AS Roma? Because he's going to start for the USMNT? See: Clint Dempsey for how well signings like that are working out. Because he's 26 and in his prime? So what? Laba's got years to develop yet and is already playing above his age. He's truly a piece upon which to build a team - because you can't tell me that Bradley will stick around for longer than a couple of years - and this team has got to stop getting rid of its assets for the latest bit of sizzle.
I'll accept Bradley as a member of TFC, but if it costs us Laba I won't be happy about it. You?