TORONTO — Ever since he took over as head coach of Toronto FC back in February, Ryan Nelsen has spoken of the need to make tough decisions in order to turn things around at a club that has struggled in league play for the majority of its existence.
According to Nelsen, the decision to waive midfielder and Canadian international Terry Dunfield on Thursday was both a difficult one and the right one for the club going forward.
“It is obviously really unfortunate,” Nelsen told MLSsoccer.com. “We really like Terry. He is a guy who gives you everything with his heart and soul. It was just one of those ones that we had to make a really tough decision on.”
Dunfield had just returned to active duty after suffering an injury that had kept him on the sidelines for Toronto’s last nine league fixtures. While the veteran central midfielder was unable to play, TFC signed Designated Player and holding midfielder Matías Laba and Jeremy Hall played exceptionally well and cemented spots in the middle of the pitch.
When asked to detail why the team had decided to let go a player with both tremendous character and experience in Dunfield, Nelsen was plain in describing the Vancover native as a victim of circumstances.
“We just have better options in the young guys that have progressed further on,” Nelsen said. “Jeremy has become even more accustomed to the position and Matias Laba has come in and played well. It was more that the young guys have progressed on really well. As you have seen in the last couple of games, we have kind of bossed that central midfield with those two guys.”
“Luis [Silva], Jonathan [Osorio] can play there and Darel Russell can play there as well,” Nelsen added. "Terry is a fantastic guy, but he was probably a bit down the pecking order and we are really tight salary cap-wise.”
Nelsen has spoken in recent weeks of his desire to bring in an impact player or two during the summer transfer window and he admitted on Thursday that the club might have decided to retain Dunfield as a depth player had he been on a lower salary.
“It does open up space and unfortunately that is just kind of life with the salary cap,” Nelsen said. “With the pressures that we are under with it, his position was probably one that we are pretty deep at, albeit we are probably now a wee bit young there.”
Nelsen did hint that the move to release Dunfield could be a precursor to further moves in the weeks to come, with both new players arriving and further players moving on as distinct possibilities.
“The changes we have made have all been for the good of the team,” Nelsen stated. “We are trying to get better in both the short and long term. We’ve lined up the guys we want and if we can get 3-4 of the players that we want to bring in, then we will be very close [to where we want to be], along with the foundation of the young players who have been progressing and who will only get better and better with more experience and more games under their belts.