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Toronto FC go back to work with the party far from over

The Reds start MLS’ offseason before they have even had time for a parade.

2017 MLS Cup - Seattle Sounders v Toronto FC Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Toronto FC couldn’t even get their parade out of the way before reality set back in.

Twenty-four hours after they lifted the MLS Cup and completed their perfect season, the likes of Raheem Edwards, Nicolas Hasler and Tosaint Ricketts were exposed to this year’s Expansion Draft, which will be held on Tuesday.

So were Drew Moor, Steven Beitashour and Jason Hernandez, who probably do not have to worry about being selected but now have free agency to deal with.

And in the small window in which MLS clubs were permitted to make roster moves on Sunday morning, players such as Walker Zimmerman, Kei Kamara and even the retired Kenwyne Jones were traded - inevitably with knock-on effects elsewhere.

If Tim Bezbatchenko is on the bus that brings the Cup from square to square (Maple Leaf to Nathan Phillips) in downtown Toronto on Monday afternoon, then, he may have a few things on his mind.

Once the Expansion Draft has been conducted at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, free agency begins at 3 p.m. The following day, the waiver draft is at 3.30 p.m. On Friday, the first stage of the re-entry draft is held.

Toronto and the Seattle Sounders, meanwhile, are the only teams in MLS yet to release their lists of released and retained players. They are likely to drop sometime today, and players that were involved in the championship game in some capacity will be let go just 48 hours or so after the final whistle was blown.

It can be a brutal business.

In practice, Bezbatchenko, Bill Manning and Greg Vanney will have made most, if not all, of these decisions already.

They will certainly know which players whose contracts are up are staying and going and may have already worked out a deal with LAFC around the Expansion Draft that ensures they do not lose anyone they want to keep.

By the time the draw for the first round of the CONCACAF Champions League is made next Monday, anyway, we will have a much better idea as to exactly what TFC will be subtracting from the existing group.

For now, we can speculate.

As I have written previously, it has been indicated that Moor will be back and that his new contract has been agreed; he has not signed it so as to remain a free agent for the Expansion Draft.

We have less idea as to what will happen with Beitashour, but Vanney’s return to a back four lately plays heavily in his favour. The 30-year-old may not be as dynamic going forward as Justin Morrow, but quality right-backs are in short supply in MLS and Beitashour is among the most dependable.

MLS: MLS CUP-Seattle Sounders vs Toronto FC Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Only Victor Vazquez, Chris Mavinga and the designated players currently earn more than his $264,000 salary, though, and that may have to come down if he wants to stay.

And as for Hernandez? That could be up to the player. He has done everything asked of him on a bargain $65,000 deal. The 34-year-old now has the ring he came for, though, and would probably play even less next year.

Benoit Cheyrou is in a similar situation, but it’s more difficult to see Armando Cooper, Clint Irwin (cap hits) and Ashtone Morgan (lack of minutes) returning.

That’s for starters.

Brandon Aubrey, Sergio Camargo and Tsubasa Endoh do not look especially close to the starting lineup at the moment and could all be at risk of losing their spots on the first-team roster as a result, but exactly what their contract situations look like is anybody’s guess.

And there will, of course, be pay rises to factor in: Alex Bono will be one, Hasler another and perhaps Edwards, too - assuming the latter two survive LAFC’s raid. TFC can pick up their option to extend Justin Morrow’s contract as is, but he may get a bump on merit.

In the meantime, Bezbatchenko will be figuring out how to spend his early Christmas present of targeted allocation money.

His priorities in that regard will depend on how Vanney sees the team developing tactically in 2018. If the four-man defence is back for good - and I think it might be - Toronto will need depth at full-back and in midfield. Pressure on the first XI from below will be essential as this team motivates itself to start all over again.

But first, the MLS Cup champions have a bus to catch.