It seemed like only yesterday that the city let out a vociferous shout of delight while at the same time exhaling a big sigh of relief as Victor Vazquez scored in the 94th minute. That goal confirmed, finally, that Toronto FC had just completed the best season in MLS history. Canadian Champions, League Champions and with that 2-0 victory over the Seattle Sounders, holders of the MLS Cup. The long, arduous but hugely successful 2017 journey had finally come to an end.
The 2018 season however, is soon upon us and time for new challenges and new goals. The team is already a few days into their “spring” training on the west coast. Yes, that was an incredibly short off season, but there is no time to rest for the Reds as their first game is just a few weeks away, and an important fixture it is. TFC have earned the right to play in the Concacaf Champions League and will face off in a home-and-home series against the Colorado Rapids on February 20 and the 27. But how close will this year’s team look compared to the team that won the treble last year? Let’s take a look at some of the players that have left the team and some of the players who may be soon joining.
Raheem Edwards, the young, crafty Canadian winger was unfortunately picked up by new the LAFC in their entry draft. The newest team to MLS didn’t hang on to him for long as he was promptly traded to our arch enemy the Montreal Impact. Edwards was very effective, specially coming into games and using his speed against tired defenders. He contributed 1 goal and 6 assists in 21 appearances this year, having started 10 of those. He wasn’t able to get many minutes though behind Justin Morrow who had a spectacular season.
You hate to see such a talented player leave at any time, but without any compensation, it hurts even more. The good news, at least for Canadian soccer fans is that he will get a better opportunity to play and gain experience. This could benefit the national program in a big way and who here wouldn’t like to see Canada well represented on the world scene.
Victor Beitashour is another significant loss to TFC. He was a stalwart on the right side in either a defender role or wing back position. He never got the attention that a Giovinco, Altidore or Bradley would get but he was the steady kind of player that Championship teams always need. In one of the most memorable games in TFC history, it was his cross that Benoit Cheyrou headed home for the overtime winner that beat the Impact and led the Reds to their first ever MLS Championship game.
Beitashour has signed with LAFC as a free agent. Toronto did what they could to resign the 30-year-old Iranian, but could not squeeze him into the cap space, specially since some MLS Champion player bonuses had found their way into the payroll this year too. He will certainly be missed but I have to tell you, I am already not liking this new LAFC team and how they are messing with our players. Oh… did you know that this team is also managed by Bob Bradley, Michael Bradley’s father? If Bob is half as intense as his son, this match will be an all out war. This has fireworks written all over it and I can’t wait until September 1st, the only time they play one another this year.
Some other players that will no longer be wearing the Red kits are Benoit Cheyrou who has retired and will most likely take up a coaching position with TFC Academy. Armando Cooper, the rugged Panamanian midfield who saw his minutes drop this year. He is still a very capable player, but doesn’t quite fit within TFC’s plans. I believe he has signed with Club Universidad de Chile.
With a number of players that have left the team for one reason or another, one of TFC’s greatest strengths last year, it’s depth, will surely be tested. It will still be one of the top teams in the league, but with an expanded schedule and hopefully deep Champions League run, this can turn out to be an even longer season than 2017. The most glaring need is depth in that right back and/or wingback position. They still have Nicolas Hasler at the moment who is fantastic compliment offensively, but not as strong defensively as the Kadri-doppelganger Beitashour.
Fear not Reds fans as Tim Bezbatchenko and the TFC Management team have already done wonders putting this championship team together (they ever get enough credit) that it shouldn’t surprise anyone if they have a little more magic up their sleeves. That magic my dear friends comes in the names of Gregory van der Weil and Alexis Mac Allister. The former is a soon to be 30 year old Dutch international who is currently with Cagliari in Serie A. He is primarily a right defender, so not sure yet how he might fit into a wing back role if needed. He has not had very much playing time with the Italian side, having been in only 6 games this year. For someone that has spent a few quality seasons with Paris St. Germain, arguably one of the top 10 club teams in the world, Toronto could benefit not only from van der Wiel’s experience, but from the chip on his shoulder as well as he is looking to prove himself again.
Mac Allister is a 19-year-old Argentinian currently playing for the Argentinos Juniors. It seems highly unlikely that TFC would be able to sign both right away, but this may be one player they keep an eye on for the near future. At any rate, the youngster would not be available until June/July once he completes his season with the Juniors. It is also possible that this interest isn’t for this year at all, but may be to set it up for next year’s winter transfer season. So even though we are only 3 weeks from the very first game, there are still a few questions as to how this team will look… and considering the transfer fee for Mac Allister alone is rumoured to be at $4.5 million, there’s a few questions as to just how much money TFC have to spend as well.
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