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‘It’s been brutal’: Bill Manning explains TFC’s (lack of) moves in the transfer market

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Why is Toronto FC’s designated player search taking longer than some fans expected? Bill Manning joined WTR Weekly on Tuesday to discuss.

MLS: MLS Works-Toronto FC Community Service
Dec 7, 2017: Toronto FC president Bill Manning during his remarks at the opening of a multi-purpose youth activity room at WoodGreen Community Services funded by a grant from MLS Works.
(Hamilton/USA TODAY)

Toronto FC’s lack of activity in the transfer window has been a concern for many fans in the build up to the new season.

In yesterday’s edition of Waking the Red Weekly presented by Footy Talks, TFC President Bill Manning described the club’s tried and tested method for recruiting talent, and how the pandemic marketplace has severely hindered TFC’s search for a new Designated player:

“It’s been brutal to tell you the truth. We are very targeted in our Designated Player approach. Last year, I think Pablo Piatti served his purpose: he was an excellent player for us. He plugged a gap that we needed. He fit in very well with the team. But when we looked at what we really needed it was a bit more goal production. Pablo gave us so much but he still had an opportunity to go play in Spain, and we wish him well. But we are very targeted in the type of player we want. We’re not going to rush into a move.”

“It’s been difficult though because in the past we have brought players to see our training ground, we’ve brought them to Toronto; they get an opportunity to see what we’re all about, we visit them, we go and meet them in-person, we sometimes meet with the club - and you can’t do that now.”

“And that’s actually been the most difficult thing: that we haven’t been able to see these players live. You learn a lot about someone when you break bread with them and you get to know them a bit, you know their family. That’s been difficult and we’ve been leery to pull the trigger in certain cases because we just don’t have enough information.”

“And we want to make sure when you’re going to spend millions of dollars, in some cases 10s of millions of dollars, that’s a heavy decision and we want to make sure it’s right. The good thing right now is that the window is extended, we have time. We’re able to see more action and more games and then there’s a secondary window not long after where, as you know, Nico Lodeiro came in the summer window—good players have come into this league in the summer window.”

While that third Designated Player spot remains unfilled, Manning is putting his faith in youth. Or, more precisely, in the unique combination of emerging youth and veteran experience that TFC has in abundance:

“We dont believe we had to make a lot of acquisitions. It was very important to us to renew contracts: we locked up Marky Delgado and Richie Laryea. And seeing this young talent emerging, when we talked about it it was like, why would we bring someone else in who’s going to limit the minutes of a Jayden Nelson or a Ralph Priso?”

“We’re encouraged by what we see around the league as well. You’re seeing some young kids perform in Philadelphia, in Dallas, and that gives us encouragement, because we believe we have as good a young talent as anyone.”

“I don’t know if you guys know, but in the last season of the USSDA (U.S. Soccer Development Academy) we won the U15 National Championship and Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty was on that team and had two assists. This is a group of players coming up that we’re really excited about.”

“We have a lot of faith in the talent already on the roster. We think we have a good blend of veterans because no team has ever won with all young players. You need veterans, you need stars, but then when you have some emerging talent you do have to find them minutes, and I think this year will be a year when you do see some of these kids emerge.”

Manning offered more insight into the kind of player the club are looking for to fill that DP spot: a skillful game changer, with a proven track record in front of goal, and—unlike Piatti—one to build the team around for several seasons to come.

“We’re not going to rush ourselves, we’re going to make sure we make the right Designated Player signing. We do think it needs to be an attacking player that can really put us on the scoreboard. One of our communications guys had done an analysis and since July 1 of 2019, we actually had the most points per game in the league—and we feel really good about the roster. But what happened at the end of last season was, when you need that big goal, like we’ve seen in the past with Sebastain Giovinco and Jozy Altidore, against Nashville we weren’t able to get that goal and that’s why we need that player like a Raúl Ruidíaz, a Josef Martínez, guys like that who are difference makers.”

“So we’re targeted, but it has been extremely difficult not to be live and be able to get to know a player who you’re going to bring into the team.”

“The market is clearly in flux. Teams are struggling financially, both in Europe and South America, and here in MLS it’s been difficult. Thank God for our ownership—we will continue to invest in a Designated Player. But like anything, like when we went and got Alejandro or Pablo Piatti, we don’t want to waste money and we want to make sure that if we spend money it’s well invested.”

“What we’ve talked about is that Pablo fit perfectly for our needs last year but we’re really looking to have a bit more of a long-term solution that can help build this team over the next three or four years. It’s not to say we wouldn’t do another short-term deal if the right player presented themselves, but our intention is to lock in a Designated Player that can help us win another championship over the next two, three, four seasons.”

For everything TFC - check out the full episode of this week’s Waking the Red Weekly now, also available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify! Kindly like, rate, and subscribe!