Despite poor league season, Toronto FC says it still believes in its squad | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

Current Conditions

Cloudy
0.3°C

Despite poor league season, Toronto FC says it still believes in its squad

November 28, 2018 - 10:53 AM

Toronto FC general manager Tim Bezbatchenko says while his shopping list is short, there is still plenty to do in the off-season.

With 22 players already signed, there are few openings on an MLS roster that can range between 28 and 30 in number.

Fewer still given Bezbatchenko needs to find a third goalkeeper, is looking to keep Brazilian wingback Auro and Argentine forward Lucas Janson (both of whose loans expire at the end of the year), and hopes to bring out-of-contract homegrown striker Jordan Hamilton back in the fold.

Given those tight numbers, Bezbatchenko said he can't rule out moving out a player or two via trade or loan "in order to bring in a player that fits a need of ours."

"If there's a player that we find internationally (or) in the league that we feel will help us get better then I can find a roster spot," he told a media conference call Wednesday.

The club has said it is looking to bolster its defence, add an attacking option and perhaps some offensive flair on the wing.

"We believe in this roster and this team and this group of players," Bezbatchenko said. "They competed at a high level very recently ... So I don't think there's any rationale for any sort of overhaul or major change in this roster."

TFC tumbled from champions in 2017 to 19th in the MLS standings in an injury-plagued 2018 season complicated by a gruelling run to the CONCACAF Champions League final.

Toronto has three international slots open, two of which would be needed for Auro and Janson if they return.

Compared to previous years, Bezbatchenko says the team is in a good salary cap spot. And he has plenty of time before the March 1 compliance date to get his roster in order.

On Tuesday, Toronto declined options on goalkeeper Clint Irwin and forward Tosaint Ricketts. Veteran defender Jason Hernandez, like Hamilton, will be out of contract at the end of the year.

Bezbatchenko said the team hopes to have the 22-year-old Hamilton back.

"That said, there's two parties that have to come to an agreement. So we're working on that now," he said.

Hamilton, who made US$100,400 this season, is desirable because of his homegrown player status, which gets favourable salary cap treatment.

One major task is sorting out the future of designated players Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley and Sebastian Giovinco beyond 2019, when their contracts expire. The trio, who will be 29, 31 and 32 come the start of next season, accounted for 70 per cent of Toronto's league-high payroll of $26.6 million this year.

Bezbatchenko, who expects all three to be back in 2019, says "more earnest" long-term talks are starting to take place with their agents.

"We want to feel out what they're thinking, what they want to do, what their objectives are and then make sure it matches with what we want to do going forward."

All three have said they want to stay in Toronto. Bezbatchenko said he has no timeline in mind for wrapping up such talks.

"I'm not in any rush and it doesn't seem like the players are at this point, although I think everyone would like to get a feeling of where everyone stands. So that's what we're doing with this next month."

He is looking for a 'keeper to compete with Caleb Patterson-Sewell, who was No. 3 on the depth chart this season, and push starter Alex Bono. Irwin's salary of $221,300 was likely too rich for a backup.

The team will continue to talk to Irwin, Ricketts and Hernandez while exploring other options, Bezbatchenko added.

Irwin and Ricketts are slated to go through the re-entry draft. If taken in the first stage, they would get paid at their option salary number. If not, teams can offer them a lower number.

There is a chance the 35-year-old Hernandez, who is eligible to become a free agent, could join the club in a non-playing role, Bezbatchenko suggested.

Toronto FC's 2019 roster

Goalkeepers (2): Alex Bono, Caleb Patterson-Sewell.

Defenders (8): Julian Dunn, Nick Hagglund, Chris Mavinga, Drew Moor, Ashtone Morgan, Justin Morrow, Gregory van der Wiel, Eriq Zavaleta.

Midfielders (8): Michael Bradley, Jay Chapman, Aidan Daniels, Marky Delgado, Liam Fraser, Jonathan Osorio, Ryan Telfer, Victor Vazquez.

Forwards (4): Ayo Akinola, Jozy Altidore, Jon Bakero, Sebastian Giovinco.

Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter

News from © The Canadian Press, 2018
The Canadian Press

  • Popular kelowna News
View Site in: Desktop | Mobile