TFC looking to make life easier for Designated Players
By Kurtis Larson, QMI Agency
|Toronto FC is hoping any off-season acquisitions will help get their Designated Players like Eric Hassli through an entire MLS campaign. (Getty Images/Files)
Toronto FC’s off-season targets are expected to do the “heavy lifting” in 2013 to allow its high-priced players to occupy roles that will preserve them through an entire MLS campaign.
“(Next season) is going to be a lot about the guys we get in here,” Earl Cochrane, TFC’s director of team and player operations, said when asked if the club is concerned with the health of its three Designated Players.
As first reported by the Toronto Sun this week, the Reds re-upped Designated Player Eric Hassli despite the unending injury concerns that followed the Frenchman from Vancouver.
With Danny Koevermans and Torsten Frings still recovering from setbacks that ended their 2012 seasons, much is being made of the potential signings head coach Paul Mariner met with during a recent trip to Sweden.
Three of the four still nameless winter targets, who Cochrane described as being established professionals capable of dealing with the rigours of MLS, are Scandinavians said to possess impactful leadership qualities.
“Discussions are still ongoing,” Cochrane said of the potential signings, who also have international experience. “We’re happy with where the discussions are with a couple of guys.
“We’re pretty confident we’re going to get a couple of (these) guys in a short while.”
Mariner has stated the club is in need of at least four fresh first-team contributors if it’s to be competitive in 2013.
And with Kevin Payne, who was introduced as TFC’s new president and general manager Wednesday, stating the club hopes to compete for top spot in the East by 2014, the expectations are firmly in place.
A second axe will likely fall at BMO Field following this weekend’s MLS Cup.
After TFC released six players two weeks ago, it appears difficult decisions are in the cards.
“There’s a real chance of some additional options not being exercised,” Cochrane said. “There were easier (cuts) to make and then some that were a little more difficult and needed a little more time.”
The Reds have already flirted with a few offers from within MLS as they wait to see if there’s interest in certain players.
“There are some quality guys in the league who play positions that we have a need at,” Cochrane said. “We’re open to discussing moving some guys.”
With Joao Plata once again “pencilled in,” depending on who the Reds can get in from Europe, TFC has a few pieces at its disposal — namely Eric Avila and, potentially, Ryan Johnson.
FURTHER TRADE BAIT
Trade conversations have already centred around the Reds giving up top spot in January’s draft for an MLS-ready piece.
At the moment, they don’t appear interested.
“We’ve narrowed it down to probably a handful (of potential picks),” Cochrane said. “In the next couple of weeks we have a series of meetings to get together and talk about our approach.”
“The general consensus is that you pick the best players available.”
Unlike 2012, when Andrew Wenger and Darren Mattocks were the clear favourites, that hardly narrows the 2013 class down.
PAYNE HAS LOFTY GOALS FOR TFC
Toronto FC “will be (a model franchise) again,” according to Kevin Payne, who was officially introduced as TFC’s president and general manager Wednesday afternoon.
Payne, who was president and CEO of DC United for 17 seasons, exits the U.S. capital with one of the most accomplished resumes in North American soccer, having captured four MLS Cups to go along with a host of domestic and international championships.
“This is the only job in MLS for which I would have left DC,” Payne said. “The opportunity to turn things around on the field and repay the fans for their unbelievable level of commitment and passion is one of the most exciting challenges I can imagine.”
Referring to TFC’s foundation as “unmatched” across MLS, Payne reaffirmed his belief in head coach Paul Mariner before acknowledging the lack of foresight that led to TFC finishing bottom of the table in 2012.
“My impression is that most of the decisions that (have been) made here were tactical, that there wasn’t a guiding plan,” he said. “They tended to be very short-term decisions ... More than often you end up paying a price for that.”
The 59-year-old, who remains chairman of the U.S. Soccer Federation’s technical committee, will have direct input in terms of the business and on-field products.
“It’s important for us to challenge each other’s ideas and assumptions,” he said of the dialogue he plans to open between TFC’s top brass. “We’ll have a collaborative process in making decisions.
“Our mission needs to be that we’re going to be in the playoffs in 2014. And then, by 2015, we want to be looked at as one of the top teams in the league.”
In short, the Reds are looking to secure one of the biggest turnarounds in MLS history after finishing last season with five wins from 34 league fixtures.