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Toronto FC see out quiet transfer window ahead of moment of truth

The Reds have built a squad capable of contending for the MLS Cup and did not need to alter it significantly.

MLS: New York City FC at Toronto FC Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

The MLS transfer deadline has passed - though clubs can sign free agents up until the roster freeze on September 15 - and at the top of the table, nothing hugely substantial happened.

In Chicago and Seattle, rumoured moves for new designated players - Juan Quintero and Derlis Gonzalez respectively - never materialized, while New York City FC did nothing at all beyond sign a 17-year-old to a homegrown deal.

Just about every team in the playoff picture bar NYCFC added something, but there is no single move among the league's top teams that would seem to be game-changing in isolation.

Kelvin Leerdam could be a big acquisition for the Sounders in the sense that he is not only a good player himself but also gives the team more balance and keeps Cristian Roldan in midfield, and the Houston Dynamo added a young player with seemingly significant potential in Tomas Martinez.

The most eye-catching deals completed, though, were mostly done with next season in mind: Jonathan dos Santos at the LA Galaxy, Paul Arriola - among others - at D.C. United and Carlos Vela at not-yet-active Los Angeles FC.

Orlando City were also busy but while they are only two points outside the playoffs, a lot of things will need to come together quickly for an MLS Cup run to be a possibility.

All in all, the outlook as far as the current season is concerned has not really changed.

The Sounders are something of a unique case in that they have spoken of deliberately keeping large amounts of cap space open in order to give themselves a midseason boost. It paid off beautifully, of course, last season and they are now surging again, though they could have used Gonzalez.

But most teams prefer build their core in the winter, as has been the case with Toronto FC.

After bringing in Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore to complete their trio of DPs in 2015, the Reds addressed their defensive problems a year later by signing Drew Moor, Steven Beitashour and Clint Irwin.

During the past offseason they targeted a midfield playmaker and got Victor Vazquez, and strengthened their defensive group - having committed to a system with three central defenders - by acquiring Chris Mavinga.

All the while, they have brought along the likes of Alex Bono, Marky Delgado and Nick Hagglund to complete the deep group we see today.

Once Nicolas Hasler had been signed to add some more experienced depth at right wing-back, it was difficult to pinpoint any position in which Toronto could realistically get better in the short term with the cap space they have available.

Montreal Impact v Toronto FC - Eastern Conference Finals - Leg 2 Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

At this point in the team’s development, the Reds are more likely to improve through internal means.

That could be getting more out of an existing player already embedded into their system and culture, whether it be Altidore hitting a patch of scoring form as he did late in 2016 or Armando Cooper finishing the campaign more effectively than he started it.

Or it could simply be Toronto getting their best lineup on the field on a week-in, week-out basis, which is something they have edged closer towards since the conclusion of the Gold Cup.

As the first-choice team starts to look more settled, there will be other players - Cooper, Hagglund and Raheem Edwards, for example - who find themselves on the outside looking in as a result, and that they will now have to push even harder to crack the XI should also be beneficial.

Up until this point, many more than 11 players have been guaranteed starts due to the demands of the schedule. Now the load is lightening, and minutes will become increasingly difficult to earn.

“We’ve got guys who are competing with one another and pushing one another to get playing time,” Greg Vanney said in advance of the window closing.

“We’re in a good spot. If it was a really specific person in a specific role in a specific way, then maybe we would have considered something but that just didn’t exist.

“Sometimes the best move is to not do too much.”

This is it - barring a surprise dip into the free-agent pool, the roster that will chase Toronto’s first MLS Cup is now set and we are 11 games away from the playoffs.

Buckle up.