The free agency signing window opens on November 22nd in Major League Soccer. The crazy and convoluted MLS roster rules require at least a paralegal background to comprehend, so it’s not worth getting into the minutiae of how the league arrives at the free agency stage on the 22nd. (If you’re having trouble sleeping, you can read the Roster Rules and Regulations) As the offseason quickly approaches, expect much of the same madness with player turnover in Toronto FC land.
However, one free agent that TFC should strongly consider re-signing is Jonathan Osorio. On Wednesday this week, Toronto FC had their year-end media availability, where Osorio stated he has “no idea” about his future with the club. His main concern is to get healthy for the World Cup in November. Osorio said, “. . .I’ve always expressed that I don’t want to make any final decisions until after the World Cup. Should a good opportunity present itself overseas, if it’s the best option, I’ll take it.” This instance is not the first time that Osorio has stated a desire to play in Europe. Toronto FC has the luxury of negotiating with Osorio before free agency and the World Cup, and has expressed an interest in doing so in their roster update on Friday (You can read about it here - Toronto FC Announces Year-End Roster Moves).
So, why re-sign Jonathan Osorio?
1) Osorio is a 9-year MLS veteran
There’s no substitute for an experienced MLS player, as this league offers a number of unique challenges that you would see in Europe. Between plastic pitches, the wild fluctuations in weather, and demanding travel schedule, it becomes evident that teams need a player familiar with these conditions. Signing a player from outside MLS might mean there will be some time to adjust. Credit to the David Gass Theorem (In a nutshell, signings from outside the league take at least a year to get truly comfortable and fully productive.)
Here’s some perspective - in 2018 TFC played Colorado in the CONCACAF Champions League. It was -16 C that night in Commerce City. Later that year, TFC played in Orlando in July and it was 34 C. That’s a temperature fluctuation of 50 degrees. You wouldn’t see that in Spain or Greece.
Also, think of the Two Solitudes Derby between Toronto and Montreal. The two cities are roughly 550 km apart. For perspective, that would mean Leeds United would have a rivalry with all of the UK, Ireland, and most of the Eredivisie. Flying across the continent and time zones has a huge impact on the players (see Cup, Voyageurs 2022 version).
2) Osorio is a Toronto/Brampton Mans
There has been a bit of a dearth of Greater Toronto Area players in Toronto FC’s first team. In their 15-year history, there has only been a handful of players from the GTA that have made it into the starting XI regularly. There’s certainly no player that grew up in the GTA that has played as much as Osorio. Ashtone Morgan and Doneil Henry are the only two other GTA players with 100 appearances for TFC. (For reference, DeRo made 98 appearances, while Jim Brennan and Julian De Guzman made 93.)
It’s been a bit puzzling to see the lack of local players in the Toronto FC first team, considering how much talent is within an hour’s drive of BMO Field (depending on road closures). The CANMNT featured 17 GTA players in their roster for the September friendlies. There’s a huge disconnect between Toronto FC and its local soccer population.
Needless to say, TFC needs to keep Osorio around.
3) Osorio is an Elite MLS Midfielder
MLS doesn’t have salary arbitration like Major League Baseball, where statistics inform the value of a player’s contract. However, here’s a few important statistics to consider for the Osorio’s 2022 season with Toronto (with ranking in parentheses for outfield players):
Games Played: 23 (T-8th with Petrasso)
Games Started: 20 (T-6th with MacNaughton)
Minutes: 1,687 (6th)
Goals: 9 (T-1st with Jiménez)
Assists: 4 (T-1st with Pozuelo)
Goals/90: 0.48 (3rd behind Insigne and Bernardeschi)
xG: 4.5 (3rd behind Jimenez and Bernardeschi)
SCA (Shot-Creating Actions): 50 (3rd behind Bradley and Pozuelo)
SCA/90: 2.67 (5th)
Osorio was incredibly important to the team this season, having been near the top of many offensive statistics in the team. While the team did not have remarkable year, it’s evident that he made a significant contribution to the team. Also, Osorio played in only seven matches with Insigne and Bernardeschi. In those seven matches, Osorio netted four goals. While the statistics don’t tell the whole story, it’s clear this team is better with Osorio on the pitch.
How does Osorio Compare with other MLS midfielders?
Comparing MLS Midfielders
|Jonathan Osorio||Toronto FC||23||20||1,687||9||4||0.48||0.21||0.69|
|Jamiro Monteiro||San Jose||31||31||2,637||4||6||0.14||0.2||0.34|
|Riqui Puig||LA Galaxy||10||9||826||3||2||0.33||0.22||0.54|
|Gaston Brugman||LA Galaxy||14||14||1,121||3||1||0.24||0.08||0.32|
|Hector Herrera||Houston Dynamo||10||6||685||0||1||0||0.13||0.13|
In comparison to other midfielders in MLS, Osorio puts up elite numbers. On a team that had problems scoring goals and creating chances without Osorio, it’s clear how valuable he is to Toronto FC.
Now to address the elephant in the room - is Jonathan Osorio worthy of a Designated Player contract? Before answering that question, let’s look at Osorio’s and the other five players and their salaries on the list (Which are estimated, as MLS is quite secretive with their contracts and the MLSPA hasn’t updated their salary guide since April):
- Jonathan Osorio - Toronto FC - $1 Million TAM Contract
- Jamiro Montero - San Jose - $1.2 Million TAM Contract
- Riqui Puig - LA Galaxy - $1.6 Million Maximum TAM Contract (Which will become a DP contract next year)
- Gaston Brugman - LA Galaxy - $1.5 Million Max TAM Contract (Estimated)
- Maxi Morales - NYCFC - $1.3 Million TAM Contract
- Hector Herrera - Houston Dynamo - $4 Million DP Contract
Looking at the comparable salaries from 2022, Osorio is in the middle of group with his salary from 2022. Now, I would imagine that a few of these players are going to get a raise in the offseason, namely Puig, who arrived on a Max TAM contract under auspicious circumstances - (see Bale, Gareth).
So, what should the number be? Osorio is worth a Maximum Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) contract, which is due to rise to around $1,651,250 Million in 2023. Sign Osorio to a four-year contract with max TAM.
4) Toronto FC needs a true legend
Toronto FC has played 590 competitive matches in all competitions since 2007. There are only 13 players that have made more than 100 competitive appearances for the club:
- Jonathan Osorio - 292
- Justin Morrow - 254
- Michael Bradley - 253
- Mark(y) Delgado - 225
- Jozy Altidore - 173
- Ashtone Morgan - 168
- Eriq Zavaleta - 152
- Sebastian Giovinco - 142
- Alex Bono - 132
- Chris Mavinga - 132
- Nick Hagglund - 115
- Auro Jr. - 109
- Drew Moor - 108
- Stefan Frei - 99 (Never should have let him go . . . )
From this list, Osorio deserves to remain a Toronto FC player for the rest of his career, as TFC has only a few players that still have a good relationship with the club after leaving. This club needs to build upon their history of success, where Osorio was instrumental in the Championship era of 2017. He knows what it takes to win in MLS, he’s a veteran and consummate professional. Instead of letting him go, sign the man and start building the Osorio statue.