Time for TFC to fix squad

GARETH WHEELER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:17 AM ET

Major League Soccer's pre-season is done and, more importantly, so is a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Now we can talk real soccer.

With the CBA nonsense behind it, the upcoming campaign promises to be another banner year for MLS. Riding the wave of World Cup fever, excitement in New York over a beautiful new Red Bull Arena (with solid ticket sales to boot) and an intriguing expansion team in Philadelphia, all bodes well.

In Toronto, the excitement is prevalent, but not a whole lot of optimism exists. Unfortunately for TFC, the new CBA doesn't change a whole lot.

Director of soccer Mo Johnston gets a little more cap space to work with (but not much) and still has to deal with frustrating roster restrictions, too many Canadian roster spots, and other smothering MLS stipulations.

Regardless, with training camp wrapped up and a new CBA in place, it's go-time. Johnston wasn't particularly active this off-season, but in fairness, with little cap space, no CBA, and a new head coach, it didn't make sense to do too much without a proper assessment of the terrain.

And Johnston still has time. Although TFC starts its season Saturday in Columbus, Johnston has two weeks to wheel and deal before his team plays again.

But making moves takes time, and it's about making the right decisions.

The players have been evaluated and it's no secret who has fallen out of favour or been rendered expendable by Preki. It's up to Johnston to decide which of these players he can afford to be without, and conversely which players he cannot afford to lose.

Forward Ali Gerba's status remains a topic of discussion. Despite being sent home by the coach last week and not being part of the Preki's plans, he might end up sticking with the squad.

Gerba's Canadian status and the fact that he plays a position in which TFC has little depth makes him important. Preki needs to understand the importance of Canadian players at TFC. Getting Gerba going in the right direction should be a priority for a team with a lack of offensive creativity and fluidity. Gerba can score ugly, and TFC needs all the scoring it can get.

It's clear right-back Marvell Wynne also is out of favour with the coach. Preki's backline has held up surprisingly well over the course of the pre-season, making the case for Wynne's departure. But Wynne could fill the gaping hole at right-midfield. Wynne's first touch and distribution might not be ideal, but his ability to get up and down the wing is far superior to any other option at the moment.

It's going to be compelling to see just how much of Johnston's team is left standing when Preki is done with it. My prediction is that both players will remain with the team.

Johnston tells QMI Agency he wants to sign three more players in the coming days. The players were not named, but it would be reasonable to assume at least two will come from a group of pre-season trialists. Argentine midfielder Martin Saric and Canadian international defender Adrian Cann fit the bill.

Signing another offensive midfielder or striker remains an obvious priority. TFC is desperate for better offensive players and it wouldn't be surprising if Johnston addresses this position via trade.

Bottom-line, TFC still is a work in progress.

GARETH.WHEELER@SUNTV.CANOE.CA


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