Matias Laba is heading to the Vancouver Whitecaps on loan. That is one of the few details of the move that we actually know for certain. Since this is MLS the rest of the deal will remain shrouded in mystery and the reliable old "terms of the deal were not disclosed".
There are a few more details that are clear though thanks to the league actually providing the basic rules for the intra-league loan system that they introduced at the start of the 2013 season. We know that the loan will have to run until the end of the season with Laba reverting to being a Toronto FC player following the MLS Cup. That was essential to any move for Laba though as only a year long loan would remove him from the books for 2014 which was essential if TFC are going to be roster compliant come March 1st.
The Whitecaps may not be taking the full financial hit of Laba but they will certainly be taking the portion of his salary that is reflected under the salary cap. He will take up a Designated Player slot for the Caps as well as an international roster slot. That leaves TFC with $200,000 of cap relief, the correct number of designated players at 3, and an open international slot for the arrival of Jermain Defoe.
Those are the things we know about the deal or can easily deduce based on the fact that those things needed to happen for the move to make TFC roster compliant. The rest comes with a bit more mystery.
The big question that many fans have initially been asking is what this means for the meetings between the two clubs this season. TFC and the Caps will meet three times in 2014 including a pair of games in May when they meet in the Voyageurs Cup. It is unclear if Laba will be able to represent the Caps in those games but it would seem unlikely.
In the one previous intra-league loan Tony Cascio moved from the Colorado Rapids to the Houston Dynamo on loan for the 2014 season. A spokesperson for the Rapids confirmed at the time that the player would not be eligible to play versus the Rapids this season in all competitions. This would have been something the two clubs would have negotiated as part of the loan agreement so in the case of Laba it would have been up to Toronto and Vancouver to decide to include something similar.
The odds are good that such a clause will be in place as it is common practice to prevent players on loan from playing against the team that retains their ownership. It would be in TFC's best interest to ensure that Laba cannot play against them in those three games this season and for the Caps it would not likely be a deal breaker as they are getting a talented player at a low price who will be eligible to play for them in all but three matches.
Fans will also be wondering just what happens after the MLS Cup and what it will mean for Laba moving forward. Well, the Caps might just have the option to purchase the player at the end of the loan deal.
Confirming that Laba deal is 1 year loan with option to transfer. Young DP deal (200K on cap) #VWFC hope he can be in PDX by Thursday.— Peter Schaad (@PeteSchaad) February 26, 2014
Again a lack of details here leaves room for a lot of speculation but an option to buy is another common clause in loan agreements. It would not be surprising for this deal to include one but if the two teams did agree on a price in advance it would likely be on the high side as TFC would likely be able to attract offers from outside of MLS come next winter having attracted some interested in recent months.
If Laba completes his loan and the Caps do not do something to make the move permanent then he would return to Toronto following the MLS Cup and it would once again be time to figure out a way to fit him in under the cap. TFC would have a few advantages on their side this time though with the impending CBA negotiations likely to change a few things and Laba's initial two-year contract running out.
Toronto FC do hold at least one option year on the player but the key part of the garaunteed portion of his contract running out is that it means come 2015 the transfer fee (reportedly $1.5 million) that TFC paid for the player would no longer count towards his cap hit. Removing that element would mean that Laba's cap hit would be based solely on his salary in which case buying him down below the DP level would be a much simpler process.
There are a lot of questions surrounding this deal but no matter how you look at it this was a move that had to be made. TFC had to get Laba off the books before March 1st and they have done that while giving themselves a chance to bring him back after the season.
Laba will also get the chance to compete for regular minutes in Vancouver. He should fit in well with their team despite their crowded group at defensive mid. He will also have some fellow South Americans in the team as he joins the Cap's recently acquired Uruguayan duo of Sebastián Fernández and Nicolás Mezquida which should help him to settle in quickly.
From the details that we do know and those we can make educated guesses at this seems to be a good deal for all involved. Considering that TFC had their hands tied by having to move Laba it seems that they have made the best of a tough situation.
We will keep you updated as any further details do come out in the coming days with the teams expected to confirm the move on Wednesday to allow the player to join his new team in Portland for the end of their training camp.