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Could Toronto FC wait until the summer to sign an attacking midfielder?

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A midseason transfer increasingly seems like a possibility.

MLS: Toronto FC Training Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Three days before Toronto FC head to Orlando for their main, two-week training camp, it’s time to start wondering: could the Reds end up waiting until the summer to sign the attacking midfielder who would seem to be the last piece of their puzzle?

A creative, explosive playmaker has always been at the top of Tim Bezbatchenko and Greg Vanney’s wishlist this offseason but unless they plan on springing a surprise - and it is worth noting, in that regard, that they have hardly gone out of their way to create buzz and interest around their winter moves thus far - the club seems no closer to completing a deal with the trip to Florida looming.

“If we find the right guy for the right position and the right scenario then we’ll push hard to make a move, but we don’t feel like it’s a mandatory thing right now,” Vanney said earlier this week.

Too many people have let clues slip for me to doubt the desire of the club to add this type of player, but it is certainly not inconceivable that Toronto could go into the new season without having done so.

At centre-back, TFC had less ability to take their time. Eriq Zavaleta and Nick Hagglund performed very well in the playoffs, but neither is proven in MLS over a long period of matches and both are still likely to be prone to ups and downs as they continue to develop and gain experience in the league. With Josh Williams gone, the next player in line if an injury or loss of form strikes would have been rookie Brandon Aubrey, and any Drew Moor absence would be disastrous.

MLS: Chicago Fire at Toronto FC John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Chris Mavinga is not a sure thing, but theoretically ticks a lot of boxes. The Frenchman has the ability to improve last year’s team, adds something to the overall skillset of the group as an athletic, left-footed defender and has enough experience at a high level to help Toronto cope if the worst did happen and Moor was unavailable for any reason.

In midfield, the situation is different. Firstly, Jonathan Osorio has proven himself as a solid MLS starter and deserves the chance to take another step forward next season. Though he is now at an age (24) at which many players are close to the finished product, there is still a rawness about Osorio that gives you the impression his development is not complete and he has another level still to go to. The most significant ingredient missing from his game last season was goals, and he showed signs of progress in that regard - and an indication the 3-5-2 formation might better suit him - by scoring twice in the playoffs as well as in the last match of the regular season.

Then there is Jay Chapman, whose promise might be the single biggest reason the Reds choose not commit to a new signing unless they identify someone they cannot afford to miss out on. Chapman’s chance creation stats - though inflated as a result of the fact he often came off the bench - were highly impressive last season and Vanney, a keen developer of young players, will surely want to find out exactly what he has by ensuring minutes are available for the 23-year-old in the upcoming campaign.

MLS: New England Revolution at Toronto FC Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

The way the MLS calendar is, it might be possible for him to do that. While the Supporters’ Shield would certainly be a nice addition to the TFC trophy cabinet, the MLS Cup is the prize they want and the Seattle Sounders - and even Toronto themselves - proved last season that it is not necessary to be the best team over the course of the full campaign to win it. Seattle picked up Nicolas Lodeiro at the end of July and were transformed, marching up the Western Conference standings by losing just three games - and one in a playoff tie in which they were defending a 3-0 aggregate lead - after the Uruguayan’s arrival.

Toronto are good enough to give Osorio and Chapman the keys for the first half of the season without putting their playoff hopes at risk. If they are not dramatically better than last season and goals from midfield are still lacking, Toronto’s ability to make a move will not change and the market may even be healthier in the summer. If Osorio and Chapman are terrific, Bezbatchenko and Vanney could choose to stand pat, spend the money elsewhere or just make the signing anyway.

There is not a ton of downside. If Toronto made a signing now, it could put them in a better position to assess other needs in the summer (as they did with Tosaint Ricketts and Armando Cooper), but it’s hard to envisage them needing to strengthen much in other areas and they probably would not have the cap space to do so anyway. If they got the wrong man in the summer they would not really have time to fix it, but with a signing like this - requiring a reasonable financial and contractual commitment as it likely will - they will find it hard to get out of a deal done this month before the end of the season as well.

It’s a difficult bit of business to do in that Toronto are looking for something close to a DP-calibre signing while spending considerably less than their actual DPs earn. Their biggest asset right now is their lack of desperation in the search for such a player, and they might be wise to make best use of that by surveying the market a little longer.