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Opinion: Toronto FC have no room for error this offseason

Bob Bradley will once again have important decisions to make this winter.

MLS: Toronto FC Press Conference-Federico Bernardeschi Introduction
Bob Bradley will once again have a busy winter to get his squad ready for 2023.
Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

With MLS now officially in its offseason, the league has its sights firmly set on 2023.

For the Reds, it’s been just under a year since Bob Bradley joined Toronto FC as head coach and sporting director. Over that time, Bradley has been involved in a number of roster moves, including rebuilding the squad on the fly in the middle of the season.

Once again this winter, Bob Bradley and his staff will have lots of work to do, and this time, there is little to no room for error.

Here are three reasons why:

TFC is in win now mode

The Reds’ window for being a contender is already here. It is strange to say a club is in “win now mode” when they’ve finished near the bottom of the league in consecutive seasons. However, when you have two of the four highest paid players in the league (based on total compensation) in Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi, competing for the Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup should be the bare minimum every season.

The Reds have heavily invested in the Italian duo through 2026, and not being able to surround the two attackers with comparatively skilled players on both sides of the ball will be considered a major failure. In 2023, the Italians will be available for selection starting Week 1, so this squad should to be at their strongest from the off. Every move the club makes has to be with this view in mind, and ultimately knowing how new additions will compliment the stars of this team.

The roster’s lack of depth

Bradley will also need to address the issue of a lack of depth in his squad. For example, take a look at what happened in TFC’s midfield last season.

Already short of quality midfielders, Bradley traded for Canadian international Mark-Anthony Kaye in a mid-season deal with the Colorado Rapids. When Kaye arrived in Toronto, it was clear who Bradley’s preferred trio in the middle of the park would be. Unfortunately, that lasted all of about one match. Kaye was sidelined for much of the season after arriving in Toronto. To make matters worse, Canadian midfielder Jonathan Osorio would join him on the sidelines soon after.

This was the worst case scenario for the club, but the Canadian duo’s absences showed how depth was an issue for the Reds. An ageing Michael Bradley and an assortment of rotating midfielders could not save TFC.

While this was specific to the Reds’ midfield, similar problems can be found all over the pitch.

It’s rare to see a season follow the perfect script. While consistency in the starting group is the most ideal scenario, that is not always the case. Having the ability to call upon players from the bench is crucially important to any successful season. A gruelling schedule, injuries, and international breaks are all part of a season, so Bradley and his staff will need to look at rounding out the squad with serviceable depth players.

Expiring contracts and vacancies

The Reds have been busy right from the conclusion of their own season. In addition to letting a number of players go, including both senior goalkeepers, the Reds have likely lost Jacob Shaffelburg to Nashville SC, as the Tennessee club is expected to exercise their option and make Shaffelburg’s loan permanent.

Bradley will also have to deal with vacancies in both full back roles, with Richie Laryea currently set to return back to Nottingham Forest at the end of June 2023, while left back Domenico Criscito is rumoured to be considering retirement. It would not be a surprise to see Laryea re-sign with TFC on a permanent basis, however as of now, a return has not been finalized.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the Reds have to deal with the expired contracts of two core pieces - Jonathan Osorio and Chris Mavinga. As of November 8th, 2022, the club is still in discussions with both players over potential new deals. However, as Reds fans know all too well, until a contract is signed, nothing is official.

2022 was another lost season for the Reds. To avoid the same fate in 2023, TFC will have to make sure that this offseason is the most productive one yet and ensure it’s as close to a perfect offseason as possible.