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Why is Toronto FC taking so long to sign players?

Come on, Bob - Hurry up and sign everyone!

Will Bob Bradley sign MLS Veterans or look at other leagues for players like Kadin Chung?
Sean Pollock - Waking the Red

Well, it’s January and the TFC supporters community is losing their minds, as per usual. We’re looking at an incomplete roster and we’re a bit uneasy to say the least. What’s going on?

This article is meant to be an explanation of the roster situation and not a Bob Bradley Apologist piece. While it’s early days in 2023, we should have probably seen some more signings. However, there might be some good reasons for Bradley’s cautious approach.

So, why is it taking so long to complete TFC’s roster for the 2023 season?

Bill and Bob have to play a waiting game with a number of players. Use whatever analogy you want here, Connect 4, Jenga, or any other board game. I would suggest Kerplunk works best. Due to the nature of MLS, namely the salary cap, Bradley and Co. have probably made offers and counter-offers for free agent targets. As a result, the players and agents are trying to maximize the amount they’re getting paid. Here’s an example of the Sean Johnson Saga (Shoutout to Mike Singh @michaelsingh94)

Toronto has to wait to see what the player wants to do. In this case, it’s possible Sean Johnson is waiting to see what the best offer is before making a decision. This idea takes time. It’s kind of like The Art of the Deal. Wait - it’s not like that at all. Don’t actually read that book.

Remeber Yeferson Soteldo? Ager Aketxe? Gregory Van Der Wiel? Erickson Gallardo? I can keep going, but I won’t. TFC has taken a more cautious approach to roster-building in the Bradley Era, rather than sign players in a hastily-conceived deal. Judging by the number of players that have left TFC since the start of 2022 (29 Players as of mid-January, 2023), Bob is trying to (re-)build a roster that reflects his coaching philosophy and playing style. His criteria includes on-field performance and being a good “locker-room guy.” A lot of these aforementioned players just didn’t fit into this criteria well. Thankfully Bradley is following a more cautious approach to roster development.

Toronto FC started the 2022 season with a number of recent TFC Academy, CanPL and University Graduates. The “Play the Kids” idea didn’t work - plain and simple. The season provided an opportunity to showcase a number of TFC II players and it became evident that many players aren’t quite ready for the pace MLS. Players like Noble Okello, Ralph Priso, and Ifunanyachi Achara did not fit well into Bradley’s 4-3-3 system.

I have one point of contention though - Why give up on Jacob Shaffelburg? He wouldn’t be a starter now, as he would be firmly behind Lorenzo Insigne on the depth chart. However, he could have been converted to a serviceable left back. Soon after Domenico Criscito “retired”, Shaffelburg’s loan move to Nashville was made permanent. We’ll miss Shaffelgod.

When did Michael Bradley sign with TFC? January 9th, 2014. Benoit Cheyrou was signed on January 29th, 2015. Victor Vasquez (the first time)? February 20th, 2017. While the International Transfer Window has some impact on signings, it’s not out of the ordinary to acquire players later into the preseason. Cheyrou came to the team late in January and TFC’s first preseason game was on February 3rd in 2015. In 2017, Toronto FC had played 5 preseason matches before Victor Vasquez arrived. So, there’s lots of time before the start of the regular season on February 25th.

Admittedly, it would be nice to see a more complete roster right now as Toronto FC is in San Diego for preseason training. Being patient sucks, but wait until February 8th - TFC’s first preseason match against the Vancouver Whitecaps. Hopefully there will be a clearer picture by then.