TORONTO – Matías Laba’s conspicuous absence at Toronto FC’s annual preseason media day Tuesday was yet another sign that the young Designated Player’s days with the Reds are at an end.
While the 22-year-old midfielder was one of Toronto’s top performers last season, the club’s offseason shopping spree that landed three new DPs in US national team star Michael Bradley, English international Jermain Defoe and Brazilian striker Gilberto leaves them with one too many on the roster.
With recent reports stating that Laba would likely be offloaded in the weeks leading up to MLS’ roster- and budget-compliance deadline, TFC general manager Tim Bezbatchenko admitted that his club is still in a tough spot with respect to Laba remaining in Toronto for the 2014 season.
“It’s going to be difficult, but we’re trying,” Bezbatchenko told MLSsoccer.com. “We are still looking at our options between the three that we have, keeping him here, the option of trading or loaning him within the league and also options outside the league.”
Bezbatchenko said the club is doing its best to deal with what is a somewhat unique situation.
The club wants to retain Laba, and Laba wants to stay with the club, Bezbatchenko said. He said the league’s Designated Player rules are forcing TFC’s hand.
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“We have been sitting down with the player to talk about what he would prefer to do because we are trying to treat our players a little bit differently than in the past, and we would like consider what their preferences are,” Bezbatchenko said. “We are hoping to have a resolution on that in the next two weeks.”
TFC head coach Ryan Nelsen said they are “working really hard” on a resolution and that he would “love” to keep Laba.
“Do I expect it? I don’t know,” Nelsen said. “I love Matty, and he is such a good player. We are just trying to do what we can so that everybody can come out a winner in the situation.”