TORONTO, Canada—After falling short in the postseason, bowing out in Round One of the MLS Cup Playoffs to expansion side Nashville SC, Toronto FC are on the clock for 2021 with their year-end roster decisions expected to be announced today.
The league has set a deadline of 1 p.m. EST for clubs to either accept or decline contract options or make bona fide offers to pending free agents.
So who do Toronto FC have to make a decision about? Here’s what we know.
Who is under contract for next season?
Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley, Quentin Westberg, Nick DeLeon, Marky Delgado, Richie Laryea, Omar Gonzalez, Chris Mavinga, Jonathan Osorio, and Alejandro Pozuelo are all under guaranteed contracts next season. I’ve also been told that Liam Fraser and Ayo Akinola are expected to have their 2021 club options picked up by the team. I’d also expect the rest of the young guns (Achara, Griffin Dorsey, Julian Dunn, Rocco Romeo, Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty, Jayden Nelson, Ralph Priso, Jacob Shaffelburg, Noble Okello, and Kevin Silva) to return, along with Jordan Perruzza, who is set to join the first-team in January.
That leaves TFC with 23 players under contract with seven open roster spots (excluding potential loans).
So what decisions do we know Toronto FC have to make?
Pablo Piatti—I wrote about Piatti’s situation already, but keep a close eye to see what direction the Reds head today. We know that Piatti is out of contract next season, with Toronto FC possibly holding a club option for the 2021 campaign that will bring Piatti back as a designated player.
Tony Gallacher—21 year old Gallacher joined Toronto FC on loan from Liverpool in September, going on to make 10 appearances for the club at left-back, recording one assist. Defensively, Gallacher was solid, with Toronto FC allowing just two goals with the Scottish Youth International on the pitch. Gallacher is set to return to Liverpool at the end of his loan deal, but it has been confirmed to me that the Reds do indeed have a purchase option for the young fullback, however, I’d assume there would have to be mutual interest. Gallacher, who moved to Toronto in search of more playing time, was candid in recent interview with Sky Sports, stating that he has yet to step foot in BMO Field and that returning to Liverpool in January (to perhaps go back out on loan) was an option. If the Reds do find a way to make the young fullback’s move permanent, they’ll have found great value as Gallacher’s contract apparently maintains a low salary budget cost. We’re not certain if that deadline to purchase Gallacher is today, but more than likely, we’ll hear some news.
Justin Morrow—Morrow was in a similar situation last year with Toronto FC as the Reds ultimately elected to pick up the 33 year old’s contract option. Morrow made $330,000 in 2019 according to the MLSPA, going on to appear in 15 matches in an injury-riddled season. Off the pitch, Morrow has always been a terrific asset to the organization, but in 2020 that reached new heights as he led the charge in MLS for the fight against racial injustice, earning a nominee for MLS Humanitarian of the Year. This is one of the tougher scenarios for me to predict the outcome, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the former MLS All Star return to Toronto in 2021.
Auro Jr.—The Brazilian fullback has improved every season since touching down in Toronto— and even got a neck tattoo of the CN Tower last year. I included Auro, 24, on this list as his contract option was picked up last season by the club after making $276,666.67 in 2019. I’d expect to see the same thing happen for 2021.
Laurent Ciman—I’ve also been told that former MLS Defender of the Year Laurent Ciman’s contract is up at the end of this season. Ciman played a pretty significant role for the club (on and off the pitch) this season as the team’s third centre-back, making 12 appearances in a shortened campaign. In 2019, according to the MLSPA, Ciman made $435,624.96. With most of that (if not all) counting directly against TFC’s cap, I’m not sure bringing the 35-year-old Belgian back in 2021 makes the most sense, despite being one of the more well-liked players on the roster among his teammates.
Also included as expiring contracts/players with club options: Tsubasa Endoh and Patrick Mullins.
What are we unsure of?
Eriq Zavaleta, Erickson Gallardo, Alex Bono
This is purely speculation, but if I had to guess, Zavaleta, Gallardo, and Bono are still under contract next season, but I could be wrong there; look out for these three during the announcement (at some point later today) to see where they slot in next year.