When you spend a season dominating the opposition and follow that up by winning and dominating the championship game, you would think that there would be time to celebrate and reminisce over all that’s just happened. Sadly, that isn’t the case for Toronto FC brain trust as they had plenty of decisions to make by week’s end.
Monday was the parade down to city hall and yes there were a few players still wearing sunglasses for reasons other than blocking the sun. Tuesday was time to clean out the lockers and the one positive message that echoed throughout the team was that as satisfied as they were in what they accomplished this season, they all wanted to come right back to work to get going for next year. They not only want to win everything all over again, but they feel they can also make a deep, deep run in the Concacaf Champions League. It does seem fitting that this team, in a season of firsts, might also become the first MLS team to win the Champions League. Just to give you an idea of how daunting a task that will be, the first leg of the series will take place in February which means this team has to get back together and start practicing in late January. So much for having any kind of offseason or an opportunity to sit back and enjoy your championship. For some players unfortunately, that time is even shorter.
Management knew that there were some unpleasant roster decisions that had to be made, and made quickly. The first of them was to make a number of players available for the new team LAFC (Los Angeles Football Club) and their expansion draft. With the 5th pick, they chose Raheem Edwards from TFC. In less than 24 hours after selecting him, they traded him and Jukka Raitala (taken from Columbus Crew with the 4th pick in the expansion draft) to the Montreal Impact for Belgian International defender Laurent Ciman.
You have to feel for Edwards. He had a spectacular start to the season and showed he can play in this league with his speed, tenacity and passing skills on the wing. To go from a championship team to an expansion team in sunny Los Angeles is one thing, but then to get traded to your biggest rivals is another. Hopefully he will have a full time opportunity in Montreal to not only showcase what he can do, but gain the experience to be even better. This will hopefully be good news for the Canadian national team as well. So although I will not cheer for the Impact, how can you not cheer for Edwards. We wish him the best of luck.
The MLS Cup Champions (have to get used to saying that) also had to immediately make decisions on a number of other players. The Reds have elected to pick up the contract options on Alex Bono, Justin Morrow, Jonathan Osorio, Jay Chapman and Jordan Hamilton. For various reasons, the following contracts were not picked up and they are Armando Cooper, Benoit Cheyrou, Tsubasa Endoh, Ben Spencer, Mark Pais, Brandon Aubrey, Oyvind Alseth and Sergio Camargo.
It appears that TFC is looking for an elite international player and is keeping an eye on its International allocation money and that is why many of the international player options were not picked up. Cooper, I am sure would be welcomed back but his current price tag (over $200K may be a little hefty and most likely will sign somewhere else. Cheyrou has been used sparingly this year and his substitution in the last few minutes of the MLS Cup was more of a way of Coach Greg Vanney saying thank you to the veteran rather than him having a big part to play with the team. The other players spent most of their time with Toronto FC II. From what I gathered it is likely that most, if not all of them, will still be given an invitation to make the team again once training camp rolls along, so it is possible that a few of them will come back.
The loss of Raheem Edwards does hurt as not only is he a talented winger with plenty of upside, but the fact that he is a Canadian winger with plenty of upside. He should be able to get more playing time in Montreal and that in itself, should provide a better opportunity for him to grow. Even with his departure and potentially that of Cooper and Cheyrou, this does mean the bulk of the team is coming back and that alone provides an opportunity for this city to win more and more trophies. That’s something we all can look forward too.
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