Building a roster in sports is quite similar to building a puzzle. It can look like a mess of pieces and you often wind up with plenty of wrong pieces along the way to finding the one you are looking for but when it does all come together it can be a thing of beauty.
Toronto FC are still in the early stages of trying to put the puzzle together under Kevin Payne and Ryan Nelsen. They may have managed to add a few of the needed pieces to the puzzle but for now it still looks like a mess rather than a team. It is clear that they are trying every piece they can to see if they fit into the puzzle but in the meantime where does the roster stand?
The club is heading into a weekend off and don't have another game until May 18th when they take on the Columbus Crew. The time off leaves the staff with time to assess the current roster picture and make some decisions about which players are going to be a part of their long term plans. With the MLS transfer window now closed until July 9th the club will have to wait to make further additions to the squad but that does not mean they won't be able to cast aside some of the pieces that just are not fitting.
The current roster for the club stands at 31 players in total with the more recent addition being Tal Ben Haim on loan. That count does include Danny Koevermans who is still inactive as he continues to work his way back from a knee injury. That means that when the big Dutch striker is set to return, the club will have to release at least one player to make space for him on the active roster. That is likely still several weeks away at the earliest though and by the time he is ready to return, the slew of loan deals will likely be nearing their end anyhow, so someone could be returned to their parent club early to solve that problem.
The biggest issue is the international slots, which are always at a premium around MLS. With the league only allowing for 152 international slots (8 per club before trades) the majority of them are currently filled. The best estimates of the international slot picture leave only 24 slots currently not in use with Sporting Kansas City and the Philadelphia Union both having 4 open slots each.
Toronto currently has 9 international roster slots at their disposal but the problem is that they have more internationals around than their total number of slots. With the additions of Jeremy Brockie, Steven Caldwell, and Tal Ben Haim on loan the club will have to make some moves to allow all three players to be added to the roster. Even with Koevermans not taking up a slot due to his injury the club still has John Bostock, Robert Earnshaw, Hogan Ephraim, Richard Eckersley, Matias Laba, Reggie Lambe, Darren O'Dea, and Taylor Morgan. Some have questioned if Morgan requires an international slot though as he is currently on a developmental contract but there is nothing in the MLS rules to suggest that would be the case.
Toronto's international log jam would be even worse but thankfully Gale Agbossoumonde, Stefan Frei, Darel Russell, and Ashton Bennett all count as domestic players for various reasons. Even with that relief the club is still looking at having to find space for 11 internationals with only 9 slots. Even if Morgan did not count they would still be one over their allowed total and that is before trying to figure out how to add Koevermans to the roster.
With Bostock, Ephraim, Brockie, Caldwell, and Ben Haim all being on loan deals that end at various points this summer would it be wise for the club to try and make trades that would net them some much needed international slots? The slots are set up in such as way as to prevent a single team from stockpiling them as all deals that include international slots also include a date at which the slot reverts back to the original clubs. That means that even if Toronto does trade away assets to pick up additional slots they would just be renting them for either one or two seasons. It would be the easiest solution to the problem but unless the club already has a deal in place to secure the needed slots, they would not be trading from a position of strength as any potential trade partner would be aware of their current international count and the fact that TFC is in need of additional slots ASAP and could drive up the asking price.
The other option would be dropping internationals that are currently on the roster to make room for the latest additions. At this stage most fans could probably make a list of players that they would probably be okay with shipping out as the case could be made for dumping almost any of the current group of internationals.
The easiest ones to remove from the roster would be the players who are with Toronto on loan as the club could terminate the loan early which would free up space on the roster immediately. Neither Bostock or Ephraim has really been impressive so far this season and both would likely appear at the top of the list of who to get rid of for some fans.
The club could also waive players who are currently under contract. Reggie Lambe was a name being suggested early in the season but considering that he has been one of the team's more consistent wingers he may be worth keeping around for now. Darren O'Dea and Richard Eckersley are both over priced and under-performing but if the club wanted to waive them it would still cost them in terms of cap space. They could also get rid of Taylor Morgan who has barely seen the field since preseason and probably only earned a contract due to the clubs lack of better attacking options at the time.
There are certainly a lot of different ways that this problem could be solved but it is clear that the club is going to have to do something. The club certainly has surplus pieces in a number of different positions (8 forwards for one) and it would not be a surprise to see them making roster moves over the coming days.
If Toronto wants to add their three latest loanees to the roster for the game against the Crew something is going to have to be done. If you were running the club what would you suggest doing to make all of the current puzzle pieces at least fit within MLS rules?