March 1st is almost here! That is excited in MLS circles because in 2014 it is the day when MLS teams are required to be in compliance with all of the league's various roster rules. Toronto FC are close to addressing their biggest issue by loaning Matias Laba to the Vancouver Whitecaps for the year but where do they stand in regards to other roster rules.
Sorting through Matias Laba's loan to Vancouver
So just what do we know about Matias Laba's loan deal to the Vancouver Whitecaps and what can we take educated guesses about?
The management team at Toronto FC have stated several times this preseason that they are comfortable in terms of the cap and even have room to make some moves if they need to. Between cap space and allocation money they have the resources to be able to afford their current roster and then some. This would make sense considering how many large contracts the team shed over the past year.
With Jermain Defoe set to officially complete his transfer from Tottenham Hotspur to Toronto FC on February 28th he will become the 25th player under contract with the club. The team was looking tight for roster slots but having parted ways with Jonas Elmer and Emery Welshman in recent weeks and moving towards loaning out Laba they suddenly have some space to work with. Even if they elect to sign all three of their 2014 MLS SuperDraft selections to contracts they would have two slots left. It is unlikely that all of Nick Hagglund, Dan Lovitz, and Kene Eze sign but at least the team has the option now. They also had Issey Nakajima-Farran in on trial but that wrapped up over a week ago and nothing has happened so it seems as if the club will not be signing him.
Each club in MLS begins with eight international roster slots at their disposal. TFC have acquired one additional slot to bring their total to nine for the upcoming season. That slot came from Chivas USA as part of the deal that allowed them to move up the Allocation Order and grab Carlos Bocanegra last summer.
Currently TFC are using eight of their slots. When the Laba deal is made official that would open up a second slot among the nine which will be occupied by Defoe when he is officially added to the roster. When that happens the eight occupied international slots will be filled by Jermain Defoe, GIlberto, Steven Caldwell, Bradley Orr, Julio Cesar, Alvaro Rey, Jackson, and Reggie Lambe.
Should the team look to make additional moves they will have that one international slot to work with.
With Toronto FC adding GIlberto, Defoe, and Michael Bradley this offseason this was the one area of roster compliance where they were facing the biggest issues. That trio joined Laba as the club's designated players which put them one above the maximum allowed by the league. Loaning Laba out for the year leaves the team with three designated players which is the maximum MLS currently allows. All three count as full DPs with a cap hit of closer to $370,000.
Home Grown Players:
There are no compliance issues here as clubs are able to sign as many home grown players as they want in any given year but it is worth noting that Toronto currently have five home grown players on their roster. With the signing of Jordan Hamilton this winter they are now back among the league leaders in making use of this program trailing on the likes of the Columbus Crew, FC Dallas, and the Los Angeles Galaxy.
Hamilton is joined by Manny Aparicio, Quillan Roberts, Ashtone Morgan, and Doneil Henry as active home grown players on the roster. Several of the club's home grown players could wind up spending the majority of the season on loan with the Wilmington Hammerheads to aid in their development but even the ones that stay with the senior team come with the benefit of not counting against the salary cap thanks to their status as home grown players.
So as you can once the Laba loan to Vancouver is made official it will leave Toronto ready for the roster compliance deadline. They have trimmed down the roster and addressed their biggest concern with a few days to spare and now are in a position to make a few final moves should the right opportunities arise in the coming weeks or months.
The good news is that the team no longer has to make any moves. They could start the season with the roster as it currently stands without issue while also having room to sign their draft picks or make other additions,