MANITOBA, Canada—On Tuesday, Toronto FC General Manager Ali Curtis was out wheelin’ and dealin’ and acquired $225,000 in General Allocation Money from FC Dallas in exchange for an international roster spot.
This gives TFC some more room under the salary cap for Curtis and TFC President Bill Manning to make the moves they deem necessary to put this squad in a position to realize the immense potential it has. But what moves would be most sensible for the club to make?
Let’s take a look at three options that have been speculated about recently.
Sign a Designated Player
This feels like the most obvious option to discuss first, and an option that seems to be picking up considerable steam. Both Bill Manning and Ali Curtis have given interviews recently alluding to the fact that the club has narrowed its scope and has its sights set on an attacker to fill the club’s third Designated player spot, with Manning most recently telling Andi Petrillo of OneSoccer that the wheels may be in motion.
“We do plan on adding and we’ve honed in on a player we are very interested in right now,” said Manning. “We’re looking for an attacking player, we’re looking for someone that can score goals, someone that can create goals—a dynamic player, someone that can dribble, take guys on, but also someone that, under Chris’ system, that’s going to work hard and that’s going to give an honest effort every single game. So, we’re excited about our prospects and like I’ve said all along though, we weren’t going to rush into this and get someone who wasn’t going to fit out system and, you know, someone that was not the player that we needed. So, we are going add that attacking player and I think it’s just going to further strengthen the team.”
With the club having two first-choice attackers up front already in DP Jozy Altidore and Ayo Akinola, it would make sense for the club to look to strengthen their numbers on the wings, especially after the departure of Pablo Piatti. Wing play was an issue for Toronto in its season-opener against CF Montreal, with fullbacks Richie Lareya and Auro Jr. being tasked with covering too much ground, and Jacob Shaffelburg being the only other consistent wide-threat; bringing in DP quality to the wing areas would add a new dynamic element to Chris Armas’ team.
With the recent report that the club may have made a bid for 23-year-old Santos winger Yeferson Soteldo, this very well could be the direction they are heading in.
There is a catch with signing a DP, however.
If the club do decide to bring in a Designated Player before the summer window, they would be tasked with paying the full DP budget charge as the player would be with the squad for a larger portion of the season, rather than the lesser valuation that would be required later on in the season during the Secondary Window. Bill Manning referenced this, and the need for depth, in that same OneSoccer interview.
“In the past week or so we’ve really honed in on a player that, you know, the question is: do you wait until the July [transfer window] which is actually less of a budget charge the way our cap works, but we have such a congested schedule especially now that we advanced in CONCACAF Champions League and the games are going to be coming fast and we saw this weekend, it’s a lot to ask of our guys to go Wednesday/Saturday especially as we did this weekend,” said Manning. “We were just a bit flat coming off that very physical, emotional win on Wednesday night, so we’re going to have to dig deep into our roster, and so the more quality players we have on our roster, the better.”
Per MLS rules, if the club were to sign a Designated Player who is at least 24 years of age during the League Year now—which Soteldo would be—before the start of the Secondary Transfer Window on July 7, it would carry the Maximum Salary Budget Charge of $612,500. If the club wait to sign the same Designated Player in the Secondary Transfer Window, the budget charge would then be $306,250.
With Toronto’s heavy reliance on domestic and homegrown players this season, and with Tsubasa Endoh nearing domestic player status and no longer requiring in international roster spot, Toronto was afforded the ability to leverage an extra International Roster spot for extra General Allocation Money to spend towards a DP.
Other moves would have to be made to remain roster compliant, but with the comments made by Manning on OneSoccer coupled with his previous statements about his desire to win the CONCACAF Champions League, it all points to the club being prepared to bite the bullet and spend to bring in reinforcements now, but regardless, the club have put themselves in a position to capitalize on whatever opportunity may present itself to strengthen the squad.
Let’s move on.
Sign a defender
Recently, GM Ali Curtis told the Toronto Sun that the club was in active discussions with potentially another non-DP player, while Bill Manning told TFC Republic’s John Molinaro:
“We’ve thought about how we’d have to free up some cap space to add another defender.”
With all of that in mind, a move for a Designated Player does not rule out other moves for the club.
Bill Manning recently told me, "We’ve thought about how we’d have to free up some cap space to add another defender" ahead of the season. https://t.co/i88orOa0mL— John Molinaro (@JohnMolinaro) April 20, 2021
Interested to see if that's how #TFCLive uses this GAMhttps://t.co/9uQzmut32k
TFC do have good defenders in the squad already, Bill Manning even stated that the club was really confident with this group they have right now, but there are some lingering question marks around the defensive core despite the positivity around them. The first is around the future of Richie Laryea.
As previously discussed on Waking the Red Weekly, Richie Laryea is attracting attention from across the pond due to his stellar play for Toronto and for the Canadian national team (and the fact that Agent Atiba is on the case). At 26 years old, this is the time, if any, for Richie to try his hand at European football. If Richie is looking set to leave the club to test himself at a higher level, another fullback will be a definite area of need.
The second is centreback solidity. Despite some of what I may read in the comments, Omar Gonzalez and Chris Mavinga are a solid defensive pairing for this club. Gonzalez is a steadying presence who has played at every level and has seen everything a defender could, and Mavinga has been touted by the Extratime Podcast crew as one of Toronto FC’s most important players. Eriq Zavaleta has been a reliable deputy for those two when called upon, and Luke Singh looks to have immense upside.
The questions come with their durability and consistency, especially with a new Armasball high defensive line and high-tempo training. Mavinga and Zavaleta have already been forced out of the lineup with injuries, and Gonzalez and Singh looked spent against CF Montreal after having to pull full-90’+ duty in the Champions League a few nights earlier, leading to tired mistakes.
Singh and Julian Dunn for that matter, for all of their potential, are young defenders and will be prone to mistakes and unsteady performances at times, that comes with the territory. This may lead the club to look at their options at centreback and decide that they could use another experienced, perhaps more mobile, presence back there to add to the rotation ahead of the schedule getting heavier.
The third is a familiar option to the club, and one they have expressed interest in: Tony Gallacher. Gallacher spent time on loan with the club last season and certainly made a positive impression on seemingly everyone he worked with, with TFC’s head of scouting operations Jack Dodd speaking about him in glowing terms.
“Everyone at the club loved him,” said Dodd. “The people around the club, the players, the coaching staff, they all loved him. All the staff have spoken highly of him since, so full credit to him in every aspect really.”
The Scottish left-back would offer the club with some depth on the backline, allowing for Auro and Lareya to get rest and rotation, while providing a steady presence in defence and going forward in his own right. With the club expressing interest in bringing him back to the club on a permanent basis, now may be the time for the club to make their move for the Liverpool U-23 defender.
Sign an attacker
Depth is king in football, especially in a season projecting to be as congested as Toronto FC’s is so far. With Ayo Akinola rounding back into game shape and Jozy Altidore (hopefully) on his way back to full fitness, TFC are looking like they will have their two main strikers at the ready soon. While they do have good depth in the squad in the likes of Patrick Mullins, Jayden Nelson and Jordan Perruzza (and Jacob Shaffelburg, and Achara depending on who you ask), none of them have yet been able to fully grasp, or get, their chance in the squad with any real consistency. Moving for a reliable rotational piece up-top would also fit in with Ali Curtis’ statement about how the club is in discussions with another “non-DP player”.
It’s very early days with Armas, granted, but with the type of game he is looking to play trialist Dom Dwyer may just fit the bill. Dwyer is a mobile, aggressive striker that could certainly handle the rigors of the new pressing system while bringing some veteran experience to the squad. He’s already working under Armas while on trial and would likely be available on a “prove it” contract after coming back from his injury and would certainly be looking to do so.
Dwyer would give Armas something a little different up front while also offering an attacking option with more of a scoring touch than Patrick Mullins when the manager has to start someone other than Akinola or Altidore, rather than having to throw one of the younger strikers into a starting position before they are ready. With the re-tooled cap space, Dwyer is looking like a more viable option to the team now.
If the club decides that Dwyer isn’t their man, they still have plenty of space to bring in another player as players in Europe will soon be finishing their seasons or finding themselves out of contract, or the resources to make a trade for someone within the league, especially as teams look to adjust their rosters ahead of the Secondary Transfer window opening.
Curtis and Manning project themselves as two men who are on the hunt for upgrades to this squad and who look poised to make a move sooner rather than later. With the deal for Yeferson Soteldo reportedly in the works, it appears that they view that “sooner” moment as now and want this squad to be at its full-capacity for their Champions League campaign.
As they have been speaking openly about further discussions that have been held in regard to roster improvements, one would think that supporters won’t have to wait long for more exciting news.