Every fan of Toronto FC knows that the roster is in need of some additional bodies before it is going to be ready for the 2013 season and the grind that comes from competing in MLS. The loss of Torsten Frings to retirement will only make that need more pressing, so it is good to see the club preparing to make some moves to improve the team.
There were no new signings to announce at this morning's press conference but Payne did drop some names and confirm that the club is looking at several players on trial and that they are also scouting a few others to potentially bring in. Payne added that all of the players they are looking at would be on a loan basis so that the club gets to have a look at them in MLS before committing to them long-term.
The first name that came up was Hogan Ephraim. His name crossed our radar last week when he confirmed on his own twitter that he was heading to Toronto FC. A loan deal to bring him in seems to be the closest one to completion as he is already in Toronto and the club seems quite interested in acquiring the attacking midfielder who is currently under contract with QPR.
Ephraim is a 24 year old English player who has struggled to find playing time at QPR despite being a highly regarded prospect not that long ago. He will be well known to Ryan Nelsen as the two were teammates at QPR and should bring some additional quality to the club's attack despite not being a major scoring threat. For more on Ephraim check out our initial report on his link to TFC.
The second name that Payne mentioned is another one that has already been covered on our site as he confirmed that John Bostock has indeed moved on from his trial with San Jose and will join Toronto FC on trial. Bostock is currently under contract with Tottenham Hotspur and would be another player coming in on loan.
Bostock used to be one of the top prospects in the English game when he became the youngest player to play for the first team at both Crystal Palace and Tottenham. Since then though it has been a series of loans to different lower league clubs and a lack of playing time. Now 21 years old he is looking for a club that will give him the minutes he needs to hopefully get his career back on track and live up to just a fraction of the potential that made Tottenham fight so hard to sign him back in 2008. We had more on Bostock in this article from yesterday when the word broke that Toronto FC might be his next destination.
Then Payne finally got to names that were news to us as he mentioned that the club were looking to bring in Robert Earnshaw for a trial to see if it was a good fit for the player and the club. Earnshaw is a 31 year old striker who is currently property of Cardiff City but was recently on loan with Maccabi Tel Aviv. He is another player who is looking to go out on another loan as he does not seem to be in Cardiff's first team plans despite having notched over 100 total goals for the club during his various stints with them.
Earnshaw has a proven scoring record over the course of a career that saw him score more than 25 goals in three different seasons for Cardiff. He has 203 goals to his name in club football and another 16 from his days of playing for Wales. It is an impressive total but the concern is that his scoring has taken a noticeable dip in recent seasons. The last time that he scored in double digits was 2009-2010 when he was with Nottingham Forest in the English Championship. Since that season he only has 16 goals in 60 total games between Nottingham, Cardiff, and Maccabi.
Earnshaw does have a pair of stints in the Premier League on his resume as he spent time in the top flight with West Bromwich Albion and was a member of the Derby County squad that set records for being completely terrible. His scoring record was not as impressive in the top flight but he did score a hat trick for WBA against Charlton which is part of his record for scoring hat-tricks in the top four divisions of English football, the FA Cup, the League Cup, and as an international.
There is no doubt that Earnshaw has a record for scoring goals and could be a nice addition for TFC but the question will be how much he has to offer now that he is into his 30's. His biggest tool as a striker has always been his speed so if he has lost a step or two in recent years that could end up really hurting him. Bringing him in on a trial first will allow TFC to to see if he is still sharp and can get the job done at this level but with such a pressing need for options at striker it seems they could do a lot worse than a player with Earnshaw's experience and pedigree.
That was it for the players that Payne named at the press conference but he did mention that the club recently engaged in a pair of scouting trips. Over the weekend Ryan Nelsen and Fran O'Leary took a trip down to Honduras to scout a pair of players that the club is looking to bring in on loan. Payne suggested that they would be young players which opens the door for them to be among the players that TFC was linked to in recent months by the Honduran press including the likes of Arnold Peralta, Alexander Lopez, and Romell Quioto.
With Peralta having confirmed that he killed a potential deal to Toronto FC and then complaining in Honduran reports that he is unhappy about Vida not paying its players and staff he would seem to be the least likely of that bunch to possibly sign. The Lopez and Quioto reports seemed to just fade away but nothing came out suggesting they were dead so they could well be names worth remembering in the coming weeks. You can find our initial report on Lopez here and the one on Quioto here.
It was the last thing that Payne mentioned that should pique the most interest among fans as it referred to a possible new DP for the club. He confirmed that head scout Pat Onstad is currently in South America looking at a potential target that would be brought in as a young DP. Onstad is in Argentina on that scouting trip but there were no more details about which club or player he is looking at at this point in time. That should open the door for a lot of speculation in the coming months about what talented young Argentinian player the club is looking at. Probably the next Messi or something like that.
The fact that Payne confirmed they are looking to bring all of these players in on loan deals initially is an interesting change in direction from the club. It could initially lead to a lot of turn over at the club but that is nothing new for TFC but in the long term it might be a good way to build up the core of the squad without offering players high risk long term contracts.
If you look at the list of targets you can see that they all come with their own set of questions marks so signing them long term would be a gamble as the club would have no club how they would perform in MLS. Loan them for a season though and come next fall you should know exactly what you would be getting from the player should you decide to sign them and if you don't end up liking them you have the cap space cleared back up at the end of the season anyhow.
With two of the club's three DPs now off the books it is clear that TFC has a fair bit of flexibility in the budget to work with so it is possible that in the coming weeks and months we could end up seeing all of these signings come to pass. For now though it is nice to see the club at least looking to make some additions to the roster after all this subtracting.