TORONTO – While the mood around Toronto FC was deservedly jubilant on Monday with the announcement of new Designated Players Jermaine Defoe and Michael Bradley, the groundbreaking signings mean that one important number does not add up for TFC.
MLS rules allow each club to have three Designated Players on their roster and, with Toronto suddenly having four DPs on their books, questions immediately arose about the future of midfielder Matias Laba.
The 22-year-old Argentine was arguably the best newcomer in a TFC kit last season and many pundits have highlighted the Young Designated Player as someone with the potential to be one of the top players in the league.
Speaking at the press conference to announce the signings of Defoe and Bradley, TFC head coach Ryan Nelsen certainly did not sound like a manager in a hurry to divest himself of the Argentinos Juniors product.
“I love Matty,” Nelsen told MLSsoccer.com. “I brought him in, so we will try and move hell and high water to try and keep the man.”
TFC general manager Tim Bezbatchenko echoed Nelsen’s praise of Laba, and indicated that one of his next tasks will be sorting out the situation regarding the former Argentina U-20 international.
“Matias Laba is still on the team and obviously per league rules we have until March to make up our complete roster,” Bezbatchenko said. “So right now this week and through the SuperDraft, you don’t have to be roster- and budget-compliant.
“We have to work through the league on Matias,” he added. “We love Matias obviously and everybody knows what he contributes on the field. He is a fantastic player and we will be looking at what to do with Matias over the next couple of months.”
While a trade of Laba has been floated as one possibility in light of the acquisition of Bradley, other options would include a loan move to another club or restructuring his contract and paying him down with allocation money to remove his DP tag.
“There are a lot of options in terms of what we can do,” Bezbatchenko explained. “Everybody knows that I worked at the league office, so I know all the things you can do with the budget and the salary cap. So we’ll be looking at all options in terms of keeping our flexibility with our team and fielding the best team.”