Toronto FC continue to be among the more active MLS teams early in the offseason. Their latest move was to ship a chunk of their allocation money to the San Jose Earthquakes in exchange for 26-year-old defender Justin Morrow. Morrow is coming off his fourth MLS season with San Jose where he made 73 appearances and did enough to earn a single cap with the US National Team.
In the press release from the club General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko had the following to say about the latest addition:
"In Morrow, we are adding a young, All-Star caliber player to our back line. Justin's steady presence, versatility and MLS experience make him a great addition to the Cub."
It seems to be just the kind of move that TFC have been looking to make to bolster their defensive choices. Morrow has spent his career mainly at left back but he is capable of getting forward when he needs to. His offensive numbers (2 goals and 1 assist) are not going to wow anyone but he has proven to be a solid MLS defender and that is something that Toronto was in need of with just a few too many unproven commodities across their backline last season.
Morrow was more of an attacking player during his days at Notre Dame where he was used more as a left midfielder and that allowed him to pick up 7 goals and 7 assists during his time at the program. It was at San Jose where he made the shift to being more defensive minded and it is a move that seems to have paid off for Morrow.
Morrow joined San Jose as the 28th overall pick in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft. By the time you get to that stage in the draft very few players actually turn into solid MLS contributors so Morrow has done well just to reach the level that he is at and earn that single US cap.
Now at the age of 26 he is unlikely to suddenly develop into the international calibre left-back that some had hoped he would become but he is a solid defender. The question now is just what Ryan Nelsen will do with that left-back position in 2014 as he now has a trio of options for that spot in Morrow, Ashtone Morgan, and Jonas Elmer.
Morrow's guaranteed compensation in 2013 was listed at $139,562.50 which is good value if he is going to be starting the majority of games. Having Morgan and his $72,000 sharing time and serving as the backup also makes sense in terms of the financial side of things. The odd man out is Elmer and his $131,488.20 contract which is too rich to be depth.
The arrival of Morrow should push Morgan to battle for the starting spot and that is good for the club. If he can get Morgan to continue to raise his game it will make the club stronger in the long run while in the short term Morrow provides a solid option at that position with plenty of years left in him.
It is good to see Toronto FC finally turning some of their allocation money into assets that can actually help them win matches on the field. There is no point having a large stash of the MLS funny money if you do not put it to work for you which is exactly what TFC have done by getting this deal done. It will almost certainly not be the last move they make this week.