Designated players have been carrying Toronto forward for most of the past year and now they may be able to add another. While the club, and all others in the league, were previously restricted to three DPs, reported rule changes could give Toronto a chance to sign yet another European talent.
Multiple reports have indicated that Major League Soccer is close to adding a "core player" spot. The spot would essentially work as a fourth designated player spot, although there may be some differences. The summer transfer window opens on July 8 and there is a chance this new rule could be in effect at that time.
Garth Lagerwey of the Seattle Sounders has said that there will be a league-wide conference call to talk about this rule today. He was not sure whether or not it had been agreed to by the player's union yet either.
This was coupled with news that the Los Angeles Galaxy were close to signing Mexican international Giovani dos Santos. It is no surprise that this new rule would originate in Los Angeles, for whom the designated player rule was created in 2007 so they could bring David Beckham to MLS.
It would be good news for Toronto FC as well, who are already demonstrating this year that they have the best collection of designated players in the league. Adding another would go a long way towards shoring up the team's chances for a first ever playoff appearance.
That is, if they can find the right position in which to put that player. With Michael Bradley playing as an attacking midfielder and Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore up top Toronto have all of the traditional designated player spots filled.
The position where they need the most help, defense and particularly the middle of it, is far from a traditional position to sign a DP. It has long been considered an ineffective use of a designated player spot to use it on a defender.
Only Rafael Marquez (New York Red Bulls), Maurice Edu (Philadelphia Union) and Liam Ridgewell (Portland Timbers) have ever been signed as DP defenders. The latter two have been decent, while Marquez did not work out in New York.
The thing is Toronto probably wouldn't have to spend DP money in order to acquire a top level MLS centreback. They just need to clear space salary cap space for one.
It would probably be wise for Toronto to steer clear of labeling another defensive player as a designated. This is the lesson to be learned from what took place with Julian De Guzman and to some extent Torsten Frings.
That means adding either a wide midfielder or a winger would probably make the most sense for Toronto. Considering the players they have currently, Toronto have preferred to play a very center-heavy midfield diamond so far this year.
For the most part this has worked out well but in matches such as that against New York City FC, Toronto can be shut down if the centre of the field is clogged up by their opponent. At times they struggle to create chances out wide, Giovinco being the only one who has effectively played there.
Adding a player on the right who could balance out Giovinco's dominance on the left and give the Italian would be the best way for Toronto to use their new space at this time. That is if they are planning to use it at all.
A player like Javier Hernandez, who has been linked to MLS albeit with Orlando City SC, would be a nice fit in this role.
There is an argument to be made that adding a fourth designated player in the midfield could unbalance what Toronto are doing so effectively so far. Giovinco and Bradley are both players who want to see as much of the ball as possible, and having to share with a new teammate might not bode so well.
Whatever the case, if this new rule goes through it will add an interesting wrinkle to both Toronto's summer transfer window and MLS roster composition in general. It would certainly make silly season, only eight days away, all the more silly for Major League Soccer.