There goes Will Johnson. The midfielder’s rumoured deal with Orlando City is now official and will run for two years with the option of a third.
It’s a strange one, because Toronto FC will miss Johnson but do not necessarily feel significantly weaker for losing him. He did exactly what he was required to do in the span of the one-year contract he signed last winter and now, with a few young players a year older, it makes sense for him to move on.
There are a few factors at play when it comes to the decision not to re-sign him, which I’ve covered before but will briefly go over again. Firstly, there is the emergence of the aforementioned talents of Jonathan Osorio, Jay Chapman and Marky Delgado as well as the signing of Armando Cooper. That’s a four-man group Greg Vanney can be confident will fill the two positions in front of Michael Bradley (who will likely be backed up by Benoit Cheyrou, who can also play further forward) more than adequately, though all indications are the club will look to sign some kind of attacking-midfield playmaker to complement the existing options.
Johnson offers more defensive acumen, leadership and experience than any of those players, and could have slotted in alongside Bradley in tougher games (or when Toronto switch back to the 4-4-2 diamond) - just like he did for the second leg of the conference final. But while that’s useful variety to have, it’s not worth the $395,333 they paid Johnson in 2016.
He’ll probably earn less than that in Orlando, but it’s not really worth $300,000 or even $200,000 either. You’d like anyone earning north of the latter figure to be in the starting XI whenever they’re available, and that simply wasn’t the case for Johnson in Toronto anymore. With Orlando, in Jason Kreis’ system, it probably will be.
In short, it’s a case of job done and on to the next challenge, and an expansion team with some star talent and a couple of years in the league under their belt is a nice fit.
For Toronto, a significant amount of salary money is now available to bolster a team that was already quite comfortably good enough to win the MLS Cup. If they can land the two impact players I think they’ll be craving (a centre-back and that creative midfielder) and a couple more to add depth (another at centre-back and someone to replace Mark Bloom) they will be looking very, very strong.